The purpose of the family meeting is to create a culture within your family of open communication and shared responsibility. The model is simple—set aside approximately one hour per week to go over family schedules, discuss interpersonal challenges, and share responsibility for planning and implementation of new ideas.
The core of the family meeting revolves around the weekly agenda. For most families, an agenda will look something like this:
- Weekly schedule for each person
- Issues or challenges
- Upcoming events
- Meal plan
Each meeting needs someone to record at least the schedule and meal plan. Ideally, the “secretary” will also make notes about agreements or plans that have been discussed. It is also valuable to have someone who facilitates the meeting. I recommend rotating these roles so that no one person becomes responsible for a specific role.
At the beginning of the meeting, each person is invited to share a short summary of their week. It can be as simple as “I’ve had a tough week at school” or it can be longer and more descriptive. At the end of each person’s check-in, they offer a number between 1-10 to describe how they are feeling in the moment, with 1 being “I feel extremely down” and 10 being “I’m in an amazing mood”. Most people will fall between 5-7 most of the time. Very low scores indicate to the rest of the family that discussing extremely difficult issues may need to wait for another time.
It is valuable for each person to share things like:
- After school activities
- Social activities
- When they expect to be home
- Whether they need a ride
- Whether they will be home for dinner
Sharing specific activities for each person allows the family to identify time conflicts and plan how to resolve them. A typical chart may look like this:
|Sun||Family meeting @11am||Family meeting @11am||Family meeting @11am||Family meeting @11am|
|Mon||Work mtg until 6pm||Singing lessons 7pm||Soccer practice 4pm|
|Wed||PTA mtg 7pm|
|Thurs||Evening conference call|
|Fri||Family dinner night||Family dinner night||Family dinner night||Family dinner night|
|Sat||Date night||Date night|
Issues & Challenges
Your family will not always need to discuss issues and challenges, but including it on your agenda signals that you are always open to discussing any concerns any family member wants to bring up. This can be a sensitive component to family meetings, and therefore it is best that all family members be in a good state of mind (above a 6 at check-in) before starting a difficult conversation.
Again, this is not always included in a weekly meeting; this agenda item allows families to discuss how they are going manage logistics. It can also be an opportunity to gauge how family members feel about potential upcoming holidays or vacations.
Not all families choose to include meal planning in the family meeting; however, it can be an opportunity to encourage your children to participate in both planning and creating family meals.
I always encourage families to send out an email with at least the weekly schedule and the meal plan to all family members, or have a shared web application that everyone can access. Some families prefer a large white board somewhere in the home as a visual reminder of the weekly calendar. Regardless of the method, it is important to allow all family members to share in the responsibility for remembering what is happening.