Therapists like me meet with families all the time. However, you don’t have to be a therapist to implement family meetings at home. It really is one of my favourite Positive Discipline tools and many of my clients find them helpful and positive. Meeting every week through the COVID-19 crisis may be important. Here are several benefits and how you can commence implementation straight away. You can either read this or listen from my audio ( Nine Minutes)
The Benefits of Family Meetings
Family meetings are beneficial for many reasons:
1.They Model Conflict Resolution
Conflict is part of life, whether it is internal or with work, friends, and family. In almost every family, there are times when we fight, shout and even mock. Modelling discussions, hearing everyone’s view is going to help your children throughout life. It’s especially good for older children.
2. They can be used for Praise
Family meetings are often used when there is a problem or conflict between members, rather than praise and encouragement. How often do you say thank you, praise your partner or children? You can use a family meeting to model appreciation and gratitude. How about starting a thank you jar. Throughout the week, little notes can be placed to read out in the meeting. We all love to be praised, and feel appreciated, don’t we!
3. They encourage Problem Solving Skills
As a parent, we often think we need to solve every problem. Sometimes, it’s alright to think and manage problems together. Sometimes, it good to ask everyone in the family what the solution to the problem is, and then review. Your children will then feel that they have some involvement in decisions within the home and in addition, increases their self-esteem as their opinion matters to you. This approach is often seen as an Authoritative Parenting Style and is seen as the most effective!
4. They encourage another Perspective other than their own
Children especially teenagers tend to see everything from their own perspective. Meeting together teaches them to see and hear everyone’s perspective not just their own.
5. They demonstrate Time Together is Important
Life is hectic, we have so much more to do. In addition, there are so many social media distractions. How often do you sit together? A family meeting connects, encourages cohesiveness and may even offer a counterbalance to all those distractions in our lives.
6. They encourage Information Sharing
When I meet with families, it’s interesting to notice who knows what’s shared between family members. Some members of the family simply have not been informed. A family meeting provides an opportunity for equal sharing. This will certainly prevent children from making up a story, young children have big imaginations and this can be distorted at times. Now all of use are at home sue to COVID-19, it may be important to tell younger children what this means.
In the context of fear, it’s very difficult to respond to questions well enough without escalating further anxiety. Just be mindful to be developmentally appropriate. Children naturally have big imaginations so think about what they really need to know. The NHS has some helpful and simple guidelines. More importantly, listen, acknowledge their fears and tell them that they are safe and you are keeping them safe at home. Please do limit social media especially the news. Here are some common questions they may ask:
What is it?
The coronavirus is a kind of germ that can make people feel sick. Remember how the flu made you ( family or friends) It can be a lot like getting the flu. Some people feel just a little bit sick. Some people get a fever and a cough. Sometimes, the cough can make it hard to breathe easily and it will pass.
How does it spread?
It’s a bit like flu and the NHS says:
Because it’s a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads but similar germs are spread in cough droplets.
Will I die from it?
No, most people have not died from it just like flu. The doctors are working very hard to help everyone who might be sick. You are safe and we need to ensure that “worry boss“, “worry wobbler” doesn’t keep those thoughts from going round and round. We don’t want to let it win so we need to carry on.
7. They can used to implement simple chores.
Here is a Facebook Post idea, I regularly put up posts that are not on my website, so I hope to see you there. Here is my idea for making “chores” a bit more playful. At your family meeting, agree on what you may expect from your children. ( Don’t forget to be age appropriate) Ask them what they would like to do, then you or one of them can write the ideas down and place them in the jar. Also, put in some fun things too ( I put in stirring the cake mixture) shake it up and ask them to pick one. That could be their responsibility for the week.
Ideas on how to Implement A Family Meeting
You can meet weekly or less. Give them a positive tone by offering refreshments or snacks. Have some pens and paper etc, You can initiate a family meeting from age 3 onwards, 10 -30 minutes should be long enough. Use common sense, younger children may need just 10 minutes.
1.Set some simple boundaries
- No talking at the same time as someone else
- There could be a rotating chair ( age dependent)
- Someone can write the views and decisions
- All ideas are welcome
- All views are accepted, no mocking or put downs!
2. Start with something positive:
What I like about today/week
The best thing that happened in our family
What I am grateful for
What you noticed this week.
In addition, you can plan a family night, some fun activities. In order for your family to get used to the meetings, stay with this process for a while and then once there is regularity you can implement family rules or disagreements. Don’t rush in with a crisis.
3. You may want to encourage talking/teaching about feelings and emotions especially during COVID-19.
Don’t forget that children show their feelings through their behaviour. You might notice;
- Being Clingy
- Having meltdowns
- Fighting more with siblings
- Struggling with moving from one task to another ( Transitions)
- Struggling to sleep at night or feeling scared at night
- Toileting and food issues
It’s important to educate your children on the Flight-Freeze ( stress response).
- Ensure your child has an emotional vocabulary. Do they have a word for anxiety such as fear, worry or being scared, angry or frustrated?
- Communicate that anxiety and anger are normal and everyone feels anxiety or worry some of the time. So, it is normal to have fears about being away from mummy or daddy. It is normal to feel worried before a test or a competition.
- Anxiety is not dangerous within itself, however, it is uncomfortable but the feeling/s will pass.
Children like a bit of simple science, help them to understand the relationship between the Amygdala and Hippocampus for the stress response go to my blog on this here: https://bristolchildparentsupport.co.uk/talking-to-your-child-about-anxiety/
4. State your Concern or Rule, then:
First, we will hear from….then I will ask you what you may be angry about, I will write down what you said so I have understood it and I will say it back to you.
It’s very important to use active listening and:
Try to use empathy rather than sympathy
- Sympathy directs attention to how you feel.
- Empathy is about active listening. It tells your child you are paying attention to how she feels.
- Sympathy is about me. Empathy is about you.
- Empathy has nothing to do with how you feel; it’s about understanding how the other feels given their circumstance.
Then go on to :
- Ask everyone else for their opinion.
- Decide on the solution you can live with, write it down. Put it up so it can be seen and referred to by everyone. A visual/picture form helps younger children to understand.
- Set another meeting time to review.
- Don’t worry about moans, groans, and other distracting noises, etc. Just keep going.
It’s important to review this weekly and ask everyone what their opinion may be.
I really hope this works for you. Many of my clients have found it to be a positive tool you can use through all the ages. If you need more help, then contact me for a telephone or secure Zoom meeting consultation. You can follow me on Facebook too. With Love Catherine