The Art of Family Meetings

The Art of Family Meetings


Never tried family meetings? You should! This small time investment pays unimaginable dividends in family connections.

Here’s how to do it:

Meet at a regularly scheduled time. Everyone should have a say in choosing a time of all-around convenience, not least so that everyone feels an important part of things from the start. In most families, the meeting has a set weekly time slot; in any case, never close a meeting without scheduling the next one.

Decide on time limits and stick to them. Unless everyone in the family is over thirteen, thirty minutes is the best time limit.

.Rotate positions. Most meetings need a Chair to prepare the agenda and keep things on track; a Secretary to keep minutes and post decisions; and at least one Social Coordinator to choose snacks and/or post-meeting games. By taking turns in these positions, families give everyone an opportunity to develop leadership skills.

Open with a sharing time. Try a gratitude circle—everyone taking turns sharing what they appreciate about everyone else.

Ensure everyone has a chance to offer ideas. If shy or dominant family members are a potential issue, enforce a strict turn-taking procedure. Parents or Chairs can also do pre-meeting interviews to find out what each person wants to discuss, then use these as a basis for a written agenda that ensures all important points are covered.

Have a set decision-making process. You may have heard parents say “This is not a democracy” when enforcing their authority; certainly few families can function if everyone, regardless of maturity, claims head-of-household-level status. Still, some families are more democratic than others, and every family needs a consistent procedure for decision-making. Some possibilities:

  • Consensus: Decisions are finalized only when everyone is satisfied. Time-consuming, but lets everyone feel respected and get to know each other better.
  • Voting: A decision is reached (after discussion) by simple majority. More expedient than consensus, but leaves winners and losers, and often unresolved issues.
  • Family Discussion/Parental Decision: The final decision remains in the hands of the parents, but they commit to first hearing all sides of the issue.
  • Parental Decision with little pre-decision input. Should be reserved for occasional major decisions such as moving to a new city. In such a case, parents may announce the decision and then invite input for the children to discuss their concerns.

Do not allow meetings to become gripe or gossip sessions. If someone keeps opposing suggestions, ask them for positive ideas. And set a strict rule against criticizing anyone who is not present.

Distribute chores fairly. One major part of family meetings is assigning chores; be careful not to give anyone an unfair load out of habit. Go around the table and ask each family member if they believe the distribution is fair to everyone.

Plan family fun. Family meetings that only discuss chores and deal with conflict are no fun. Include planning sessions for outings and recreation.

Use good communication skills. Listen actively to others. Ask open questions (not “Does everyone like this decision?” but “How do you feel about this decision?”).

Evaluate. Begin each meeting by requesting comment on decisions from the previous meeting. End by asking if everyone felt the meeting was worthwhile or has suggestions for improving future meetings.

Join us for our first teleseminar in the Family Strengthening Series on January 28th at 7 pm where we will be discussing Family Meetings in detail. To register email, hurry spots are limited!