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Can family meetings help us become a stronger family?
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Regular family council meetings help the family make decisions that are good for everyone. They can help families learn how to plan together, to accept responsibility and show concern for others. They also help build communication between family members and provide a time and place to enjoy each other by being together. As a family, reserve a specific night of the week when your family can consistently meet for a family meeting. Here are some tips for successful family meetings.
- Set a regular time and place. This gives the family council a position of importance and permanence. If everyone knows the family is meeting together weekly, they find that most problems can wait a few days to be discussed.
- Use an agenda. Post a paper during the week where family members can list concerns they want brought up. Discuss things in the order listed. This reduces problems between meetings when parents can say, “List it on the agenda and we’ll discuss it at the family meeting.”
- Invite all members of the family — but attendance is voluntary. If a member is not present, he/she is still expected to abide by any decisions made by the family council.
- Each person has equal voice. Everyone should be encouraged to contribute ideas and suggestions. Try to treat all members the same, regardless of age. When solving a problem, help everyone feel that they have had input, discuss alternative solutions and then vote. This gives everyone a chance to be involved.
- Councils do not always run smoothly. Teenagers may be suspicious that the new program is just another way for parents to get their way. In the first council meetings, rebelliousness may be exhibited to deliberately test whether parents are sincere about including everyone in family decisionmaking.
- Use rules of order. If participation is to be equal, then some type of order must be maintained. A person’s right to be heard implies that others have the obligation to listen.
- Rotate chairmanship. If the same person conducts all meetings, that person eventually begins to assume an air of superiority. To help maintain a feeling of equality, family members should take turns conducting the councils. This allows each person to experience the privileges and the responsibilities of this position.
- Accentuate solutions. Family councils should not be “just a gripe session.” To prevent this, you may decide that the person presenting a problem must also suggest one possible solution. Family members could then discuss alternate solutions or modify the one presented.
- In practice, some solutions do not work as well as anticipated. As family members begin to live with a decision, they may decide it needs to be changed. This change, however, should wait until the next regular meeting. Children soon recognize a need for better solutions and they learn by experience to make wiser choices. When family council is held regularly, each member learns to anticipate problems. When this occurs, the emphasis at council meetings shifts from problem solving to problem prevention and planning.
- Family council can also be a time to plan fun things like vacations or family outings. Families can talk about different places to visit and how they want to spend the time.
- The family council can be the final authority for the family, or a family can have a modified version of decision-making. For it to be effective, however, most decisions made by the council need to be binding. If parents always overrule the council, children will soon lose interest.
- Keep a record. There sometimes develops a difference of opinions as to who conducted the last meeting, what matters were discussed and what plans were agreed upon. For this reason, a secretary to record minutes is most helpful. The secretary can rotate with each meeting.
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