Communication is key to a well running family unit where everyone feels like the they are a part and they have a say in what goes on. Lately, we have taken from an idea my wife found online discussing family issues. The idea is to hold regular meetings with members of your family. Although I was a bit skeptical at first, we ran with her idea, and I found it does really help. There are four different ways in which these “meetings” are held.
- Full family meeting
- Husband and Wife
- One on one with child
- Two on one with child
While your family situation may vary from mine, these can be modified to suit your needs. The important thing is to ensure that regular, honest conversation is happening. It is so easy to let molehills grow into mountains if annoyances are allowed to fester. Whatever you decide on is best, but the main idea is to facilitate open and honest conversation in order to encourage each other to help solve each other’s problems.
Full Family Council
On Sunday afternoons, we will gather together as a family and discuss any issues and schedules coming up that week. We will start off with a prayer, to invite the spirit, and to signal to everyone that this is a formal start of a meeting. First off, we will discuss any events coming up that week. Billy has a track meet on Friday, Johnny has a doctor’s appointment Tuesday, or whatever. Scheduling conflicts can hopefully be resolved before the actual event. Second, we will go around the room and ask everyone if there are any issues that need to be brought up. If someone is quiet, you may ask them questions:
Do you have any problems that you need help solving? How can we help?
How has your chores been going this week? Is there anything you need help with?
Is there anything you would like to do this week? What do you have planned?
Do you have any upcoming tests? Play dates? Sport events?
What are you excited/nervous for this week?
What has someone in the family don for you this week that you really appreciated?
How can we pray for you?
Third, we will go around the room and talk about goals and things we want to work on for the coming week. This week, I am working to reduce my phone time while at home. My daughter wants to do one act of service each day. We think about a goal or something to accomplish, and I will write it down. Every night, I will quickly read each before bedtime.
Typically, the meeting will run 15 minutes to a half hour. Any longer than that, and they will lose their attention span.
Executive Family Council (Parents Only)
Every night, my wife and I will briefly go over the money we spent that day. It will take about five minutes, unless we are paying bills that evening. Staying on top of money will ensure that both are on the same page financially. We have a budgeting spreadsheet that we will keep updated. We have been doing it for about a year now, and found it really has opened the doors of communication.
Lately, we have started a weekly meeting after we put the kids to bed. We follow the same pattern of starting with a prayer, discuss any pressing matters, and discuss any difficulties. I really feel it has helped us communicate issues, rather than fostering passive aggressive behavior. Some questions you may ask are:
What did I do that you really appreciated this week? (And vice-versa)
What needs do you want to discuss? (And vice-versa)
How can I help you feel more loved/respected this week?
What do you think “Billy” is struggling with? How can we help?
What are the main stressors in your life right now? How could I help?
There are times these conversations have blown up into 1-2 hours of stuff. But most of the time, we will hold it to 30-45 minutes. It depends on the situation. All too often, a disorganized conversation will go on and on, and you find you are discussing in circles. Hopefully, having a structured approach to the conversation will be more productive. Like the family council, I will record the main points of what we discussed, including the problems, proposed solutions, and the following week, any results. It helps keep the conversation moving forward, rather than rehashing the same thing over and over.
This article is starting to run long, so I will cut it off here, and discuss meeting with your child next week. The basic idea is to have a structured dialogue that is efficient in communication. We have been doing this for only a short time now, but I can say it has really paid dividends in fostering an open line of communication, creating a vision of self-improvement in each member of my family, and to create an atmosphere of mutual love and respect between everyone in our home.