In light of our current events and the chaos and disruptions they have brought, I felt the need to call a good, old fashioned family meeting! It had been a while, but we had a lot of new important things to talk about- new work situations, school cancellations, health concerns, and how our family was going to navigate these unique circumstances.
Once everyone was gathered around in the living room, several things were part of this particular meeting:
- I asked how everyone was doing. How was everyone feeling- physically and emotionally? My colleague wrote a great blog about taking your family’s “temperature.”
- I shared information from the CDC about the coronavirus, how it is transmitted, risks of exposure, symptoms of infection, and recommended precautions to take. I kept a calm tone and stuck to the facts. I allowed room for them to share what they had already heard and where they heard it. We talked about what information sources were trustworthy. (I have teens and up. Adjust accordingly for your children.)
- I went over some new family routines and rules that would be in place for a while. No friends over right now. Who was responsible for sanitizing door knobs, appliance handles, remotes, light switches, etc. and on what days. What the schoolwork schedule would look like. We talked about how we would be having more Family Movie and Game Nights!
- I allowed space for questions and encouraged everyone to be real about their reactions and suggestions. They had some ideas way better than mine!
- I emphasized that this was going to pass and we would seize the opportunity these new obstacles provided- to spend more time together as a family, to learn new things, and to invest time in the things we always say we wish we had the time to do. We are a team and a fun team!
- We talked about how “this” was not all about us and how we needed to keep our eyes open for creative opportunities to help other people.
- Remember: This is opening a dialogue to what will be an ongoing conversation.
Sure, this meeting was necessary because of a set of new, unique circumstances, but family meetings should be a regular part of your family culture. Keep them going!
General Family Meeting Tips:
- Keep them positive and fun.
- Keep everyone involved.
- Keep them relevant. (Nothing worse than a meeting that feels unnecessary.)
- Keep them a brief but consistent part of your family life.
Every family is different so be sensitive to your specific family needs as you consider these suggestions and be prepared to make adjustments as needed.
- Start them with something fun that gets everyone talking like a silly question like, “What superpower would you want and why?” or “What vegetable would you like to disappear forever?” Talking people are more likely to keep talking.
- Use them to keep everyone on the same page. “What was the best part of last week for you? What are you looking forward to this week?”
- Meetings emphasize family interdependence. They help the family to understand each individual member and help each individual to understand their connection to the family. Let family members put things on the agenda. Let them lead.
- This is the time to address issues, schedules, current events, and even finances in an appropriate way. This is the time to celebrate grades, sport wins, recitals, and character growth you are witnessing as a parent. NOT a time to embarrass anyone or point out individual mistakes or problems.
- Be creative! Family meetings can be held at a pizza place (just not during social distancing, of course!), during a board or card game, or throughout a car ride. No matter what – end with some fun!
Since the family was all together in one place, we capitalized on this opportunity to transition from serious real-world problems into an incredibly competitive, very fun, homemade three-point shooting contest using a pot from the kitchen, a chair, and some paper wads. Walkout music was blasted for each player. Meeting adjourned!