Have you heard of family meetings? Do you have them regularly in your home? Have you ever tried to?

What exactly is a family meeting? Why should any of us try this? And how do we do it?

Let’s break it down.

These are my 4 P’s of Family Meetings: Pump Up, Problem Solve, Plan, Play!

The benefits of family meetings including building relationships, building self-esteem, and providing an avenue to teach and practice problem solving skills. You can incorporate regular gratitude practice which has been shown to have great effects on mental health. You have an opportunity to model and practice social skills and higher order problem solving. And the most important benefit in my opinion- family bonding and connection!

I can hear what you’re saying back to me right now. “This sounds really involved and we don’t have time to add something every single week to our busy schedules.

”Here’s the thing- you can do it in just a few minutes each week and the benefits FAR outweigh the effort for this one.

What all does a family meeting include?

Roles- take turns with these roles and/or make up your own:

  • Leader (necessary)
  • Secretary (necessary)
  • Game chooser (silly and fun)
  • Announcer (silly and fun)
  • Snack server (silly and fun)

Agenda- have a place where everyone can write down ideas to discuss at the family meeting all week long. Problem? Write it down on the agenda. Requests for things you want from mom & dad? Put it on the agenda. You’ll find that by the time the family meeting comes around, the big problem isn’t even worthy of discussion any more.

The meeting agenda- what to do in an actual meeting

  1. Call the meeting to order.
  2. Start with something positive. Compliments or gratitude
  3. Go through all agenda items (concerns)
  4. Each member can propose a solution.
  5. Write them all down.
  6. Agree to try one as a family.
  7. Agree to report back in next week.
  8. Option: review upcoming week’s schedule/ events
  9. Close the meeting. Do something fun together as a family!

This may take 20 minutes if there are a lot of things on the agenda or it may be less than 5 when you first start out. End with FUN- a game, a treat, physical activity. We are pairing the meeting itself with positive reinforcement while having another opportunity for family bonding and connection.

But what if we start out with good intentions of meeting every week and then forget or get busy? Then just try again! Again- the benefits are REALLY big on this one, so just get back on that horse. Be honest with your kids. “Guys, remember how we were going to have regular family meetings? Oops. We somehow fell off that train. We are going to just try again together starting this week!”

Stick with it. It can take a few weeks to get into the groove.

Make sure to keep everyone on even footing here as much as possible. Sure, sometimes the parents have to have the final say, but a lot of times you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the solutions and ideas your kids come up with on their own. This is NOT a time to lecture. Who would want to come to the next family meeting if they are anticipating another lecture? I know I wouldn’t!

If you think this is too advanced for your children based on ages or current abilities, try it anyway! Provide simple yes/no choices with their method of communication- thumbs up, picture cards, AAC, you name it. Just give them a chance to be a part of the problem solving process or planning for your family. It can be as simple as “Do you want to eat spaghetti tomorrow night for dinner? Yes or no?” Just giving them a voice and making them an equal family member can be so big! Then slowly grow your family meetings as your child’s communication skills grow.

Family meetings- parents talk less and listen more. Accept all ideas as possible (even off the wall ones). Empower your kids. Involve your kids. Have FUN!

Try it this week and let me know how it goes!