Now that the school year is in full swing, we find ourselves settled into the hectic monotony of rushing kids to school, prepping dinner, and getting ready for bed. How do you connect with your kids and give them a voice in the family amidst the daily chaos? Consider trying out family meetings.
Family meetings are a tangible way for kids to practice exercising their voice and sharing their opinions. Young people benefit so much when they have a say in how their environment is structured. When they can use their voice it also fosters feelings of self-worth and builds problem-solving skills. Here are five tips to try, plus some additional resources, for incorporating family meetings into your routine:
Scaffold the family meeting structure
Typically, family meetings include an agenda that incorporates compliments, planning, and problem solving. It’s helpful to review the meeting structure and practice together. Breaking this agenda into small pieces to practice, such as having a week of practicing compliments leading up to the meeting, is an easy way for everyone to learn the routine.
Start with small challenges
Practicing with a low-stakes challenge or problem is a helpful way to learn the basics of the family meeting structure. Brainstorm solutions to the challenge as a family and be sure to encourage suggestions from the kids. Check out this video series led by Sound Discipline facilitators to learn more about problem solving during family meetings.
Practice “speak up, step back”
As adults, it is tempting to lead the entire process or guide the problem-solving conversation for everyone. However, doing so removes agency and voice from the kids in the family, and can end up feeling like another example of adults telling kids what to do. Hold back your ideas until your kids have brainstormed and contributed their own.
Make time to practice
Practicing family meetings with regularity sets us up to have an effective family structure in place when a problem does inevitably arise. Whether family meetings occur weekly, monthly, or somewhere in between, co-create your meeting agendas and schedules with your children based on what works best for your family.
There are a plethora of resources available to help if you get stuck. This resource from Simply Rooted Family has example scenarios, and this guide from Aha! Parenting provides step-by-step instructions.
Creating the routine around connection and time spent together is the important thing. When we solve small problems together our kids build their skills and independence, and we have the foundation in place to solve bigger problems when they come up.
No matter how family meetings end up looking for your family, the important part is that they extend opportunities for your child to share their voice and participate in problem-solving. Have fun!