The little known secret to calmer, happier family life

Do you find yourself forever putting out fires, reactive, nagging, stressed when dealing with your children? Do you wish that for once your children would do what they are supposed to, without nagging, that they would help out, step up to the plate? What if there was a better way to manage family life? 

In my experience, family meetings are a wonderful way to short circuit much of the chaos that ensues when there are no formal rules, set expectations or consequences for rule breaking. The meetings provide a regular format for the family to discuss concerns at a time when people are calm as opposed to stressed (when was the last time you did that?) and to come up with solutions together which work for everyone in the family. 

Family meetings provide everyone in the household with a voice. Both children and adults get the vital message that they and their input is important to the smooth functioning of family. Even young children can be encouraged to participate and speak up about how other’s behaviour impacts them. 

Children learn valuable life skills about interdependence, negotiation and problem solving by being allowed to participate in building solutions for issues that affect the whole. When families are facing major decisions such as a move or a career change, bringing the whole family together proactively to discuss can greatly reduce stress and negative impact on individuals who may otherwise feel left out, put upon or neglected during such stressful transitions. 

Like family meals, the meetings allow the family to create intentional space for family bonding and management. Regularly gathering in this productive and proactive way, gives the important message of the priority of family and family time and builds a great sense of ‘weness’. 

Conflict is a reality of family living. Family meetings provide a valuable platform for conflicts and issues to be aired and discussed in a calm and neutral environment, away from the usual triggers that bring about over reactions and poorly-thought through consequences.   

The discipline of following ground rules, making your point and listening to others who may disagree are all  important skills in relationship building. The structure of organized meetings gives children practice in these speaking and listening skills  that will serve them well in life and in other relationships. 

Of course, the meetings do not have to be only about discussing issues and finding solutions. They can be a great way to share information with everyone (in person, rather than virtually) at the same time, discuss schedules and chores so that all members are informed and on the same page about events, chores and happenings during the week. The effort required to sit down and share the comings and goings of adults and children has manifold rewards in keeping people connected to each other’s world and informed of the little as well as the big happenings in each other’s lives. 

Finally, meetings can be a great way to plan for fun things together, vacations and family outings. Everyone can have input in what and how they would like to spend leisure time, and come up with suggestions on the process to reach a final decision. They can facilitate play as well as work! 


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