When Brian, our youngest son, was in elementary school, he came home and announced that he was in charge of a committee at school. We expressed our joy by saying: "That's wonderful!" When Brian felt good about something, he had a certain body posture and look on his face. His whole body was saying that he felt great about this new position. After some celebrating, we asked, "What does your committee do?" His response may be typical of many committees. "I don't know, but I am the chairman." No doubt, most of us feel better about meetings if there is a structure with goals or objectives. The same is true with family meetings.
Last month we introduced the idea of having family meetings. The purpose of family meetings is to bring structure and unity into the family, to plan activities and schedules, to give every family member a voice, and to design a family chore list so that the list doesn't become one person's responsibility. Here are some tips on how to do it:
Share the floor: Use the "go around the room" procedure to give everyone an opportunity to put their activities/events on the family calendar. It is also a good time to plan such events as family vacations, fun activities, and the events surrounding the holidays.
The goal is to provide a safe place
for dealing with problems and feelings without judgment or ridicule.
Posted agenda: Family meetings will run much more smoothly if there is a set agenda for each meeting. We could use a dry erase board for family members to form an agenda list. The agenda board could be attached to the refrigerator or hung on a wall. The main thing is to put it in a prominent place in the house. Everyone is invited to post what they would like to talk about at the next family meeting. As parents, we also want to include "celebrations and appreciations." We want to acknowledge the positive things that are going on with our family such as good grades, all the chores getting done, and good manners. Families should try to start each meeting by mentioning the positive events and efforts made by family members during the week.
Clearing the air: We may want to use our family meetings to deal with any hurt feelings, anger or frustrations a family member might have. The goal is to provide a safe place for dealing with problems and feelings without judgment or ridicule.
Understand completely: We want everyone to feel heard and understood. The way to do that is to give the floor to the one needing to talk. Before moving on, we have to validate and show that we understand what that person is saying by giving our interpretation. Once we know that person feels heard, then we can move to the next person or topic.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700
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