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This is one of a series of articles on evolving and
families (Lesson 5). The series exists because the wide
range of current U.S. social problems suggests that
most families don't
fill the primary needs of (nurture) their members very well.
That promotes the epidemic
of this le-thal [wounds + unawareness]
assumes you're familiar with
Family "How-to" authors often suggest "have a family
meeting," and assume adults know how to do that. In my experience,
combinations of five common
often prevent such
meetings from happening or being productive, and most adults don't know how to
overcome this. This article...
suggests why to have family meetings
defines an effective family meeting
defines specific reasons stepfamily-members need to meet
suggestions for successful outcomes, and...
menu of useful topics.
Why Have Family Meetings?
Premises: people communicate ceaselessly to
fill local mixes of up to
occur when some member/s want to communicate with several other people to do one
or more of these:
Exchange ("discuss") information;
Clarify something - reduce confusion and
- like a vacation or holiday plan;
(solve a problem) - i.e. reduce someone's discomforts;
Coordinate group members on their task responsibilities
Teach something of value to everyone
Strengthen bonds, relationships,
and group harmony; and/or to...
Enjoy a common activity together.
Can you think of other reasons to have a
Millions of typical multi-home
eventually divorce psychologically or legally. So average stepfamily
members have extra reasons for regular family meetings:
discuss and agree on their identity as a
normal multi-home stepfamily
agree what that identity means to all
review what's normal (what to expect) in
discuss and agree on who belongs to the
review and discuss family-adult priorities
(marriage or children first?
review the complex process of merging
several biological families
review the special tasks of stepkids
discuss acceptable first and last names and
compare and contrast stepparenting with
assess members' status on grieving major
losses (broken bonds)
review common stepfamily stressors, and what
to do about them
discuss the benefits of being in a
clarify and resolve any old issues about
prior divorces and family reorganizations, and...
discuss issues unique to this stepfamily
Learn perspective and factual information on each of these topics in
Criteria for an Effective Family Meeting
You've attended thousands of meetings in your life. Why
have some been more satisfying and effective than others? I propose that the
odds for all your family members feeling "That was a good
rise when your adults and kids meet conditions like these:
clear _ who called the meeting, _ why, and _ who leads it.
pick a time and place to meet that optimizes everyone's comfort; and...
that each (a) person attending has
several surface and primary
conflict, and that (b) everyone's needs are
equally important, regardless of age, gender, or family role..
acknowledge that long-term group needs may outrank short-term
needs, and that some family members (like kids) won't know or care about
long-term needs; and...
Leaders conduct the
meeting so that everyone feels heard and respected well enough; and...
conflicts between participants, within local re-straints (like
time and patience), while...
keep the meeting focused
on the original agenda (above)
At the end of
the meeting, the leader/s may summarize what happened and any responsibilities and actions that were agreed on. They
may also check to see how satisfied each participant feels, invite
suggestions, and thank
everyone for contributing.
The leader/s (or ideally, all adults) stay aware of these factors as the
meeting progresses; and..
When appropriate, someone will let
family members know what happened at the meeting, and how the meeting's outcome may affect
them. (e.g. "We've decided to become a smoke-free home.")
|By definition: at the end of an effective family meeting,
each adult and child will feel
their needs for inclusion, respect, information, and comfort were met well
How does this set of criteria match your idea
of "what's needed for an effective family meeting?" If you've tried such
meetings, how did they turn out? As you see, many factors determine how well
each person's needs get met. Where can average family adults learn these
Discuss these options, and select those you think would help your kids and
adults all get your needs met more often. Option: print this and use it
as a checklist...
Learn how to tell
are, your odds of
planning and facilitating effective family meetings go way up - and vice versa!
_ 2) Evolve agreement among your
members as to what constitutes an effective family meeting.
Then use it to monitor your effectiveness together, over
Option: at the end of any meeting, ask each person to honestly grade
how useful it was to them - e.g. 1 to 10. Use high "grades" to affirm you all,
and low grades as motivation to improve ("What would have made this
meeting better / more useful / helpful / interesting for you?").
_ 3) If some adults or kids resist
family meetings, or come but don't participate, see that as a chance to
learn, not to blame them and/or avoid meeting. Their disinterest,
reluctance, or cynicism is probably some mix of barriers like
awareness, patience, and
empathy, each barrier can be reduced over time.
Note that evening meals
may serve as natural family-meeting times, if you don't overdo it. Option:
consider inviting "resistant" members to come as an "observer," so they "know what's
going on." Often - specially in meetings that affect them in/directly -
they'll join in...
out some clear adult
criteria for when to have a
group meeting vs.
discussions with two or three members. The latter are usually a lot simpler!
_ 5) Learn the skill of
prioritizing together to determine clearly
what you and each other family member
in what order, and...
who's really responsible for filling each
problems into smaller "chunks" (goals).
These habits will
help you consistently set clear family-meeting agendas and provide a useful example for
(vs. "find") time to plan
important meetings and discussions
first. Consider things like...
should attend and
why (what type of meeting will it be - informational,
problem-solving, family-building, or enjoyment);
when and where to meet;
who should lead, and...
who has the shortest attention span;
what specific outcome/s you want; and
limiting the agenda to just a few targets. A series of
short, focused, effective meetings is more nurturing to your family than
several long, boring, and/or complicated meetings.
Help all your adults and
kids learn to talk about
Such talk includes
learning how to say "I just got a '1-up' or '1-down' message from you."
Awareness of your R-messages and attitudes is vital to
in or out of a
_ 8) Explain what
are to every adult and older child, and discuss your ideas on how best to spot and
of these common family stres-sors. Option: interest kids in this by
inviting them to be a conflict and/or triangle "scout," and rewarding them
for spotting these problems. Make sure they don't feel
responsible for causing or resolving them!
Recall - this is a checklist of suggestions for having effective family
_ 9) Have
all your family adults read and
discuss these ideas about improving communication effective-ness with
adults and kids.
Then teach all your family members:
we all try to
fill by communicating (even infants!), and
what happens when two
or more persons' communication needs
("I think my
needs don't match yours right now - let's check, OK?") and...
Evolve a strategy that
any of your kids and adult can use if this need-conflict happens during a
conversation or family meeting.
Option: ask a child to be a "need-conflict"
scout in your homes. If you do this, let all family adults know
what you're doing and why...
for chances to affirm
small individual and group successes, as you all experiment with how to
meet, talk, and problem-solve effectively together. That can sound like
"Mike, you did a real nice hear--ing check just now - way to go!"; or "I'm
appreciating that in the last 25 minutes no one interrupted any-one else.
Good for us!"; or "Alex, I know you had to work hard to get
here on time - and you did. Thanks!"
_ 11) When you're meeting to solve
(someone's) problem, help everyone focus on identifying and ranking
ultimately turn out to be unfilled needs - emotional, spiritual,
and/or physical discomforts.
_ 12) Help everyone learn and use the
difference between requests ("No," "Not now," and "I can't say" are
acceptable responses); and demands (These are not acceptable
_ 13) Since you all are evolving relationships and roles together, see how everyone feels about these
encourage each other to use them in confusing situations. Option: open any mee-ting
by reading these brief inspirations or something else to center everyone.
_ 14) Note your option of combining
"business" (information exchange, problem solving, family-building) with
some fun - like a game you all enjoy. The
are two interesting, non-competi-tive board games for all ages that combine
fun and family-building.
_ 15) In long, complex, or important
family meetings, it can help if at the end, the
called the meeting, and...
why (e.g. "Marcia wanted us all to discuss whether
we should get a dog");
what key needs surfaced ("We discovered a
lot of mixed opinions on this"), and
who agreed to do what, by when (" We
agreed we're still too disorganized from moving in together, and that
Marcia's responsible for calling us together again to decide about a dog in
Consider rotating the
meeting leadership role, so older kids get a chance to develop and practice
their "chairperson skills." Co-parents can act as coaches and consultants,
and retain ultimate responsi-bility for meeting process and outcomes.
_ 17) When important decisions were
reached, decide who will follow up to see if what was agreed on
actually happened. Otherwise family cynics
will be justified in saying "Family meetings are a waste of time - they
_ (add your own effective-meeting
Useful Family-meeting Topics
There are many subjects you adults can include in a family-member
meeting or discussion. You can focus on...
resolving a specific
role, relationship, or other family problem,
plan a celebration, vacation, reunion, or discuss a change;
- i.e. growing
having fun together and growing your
__ Use the
in this Web site as sources of useful topics.
__ Have a series of meetings to discuss and
practice the seven
in Lesson 2.
__ Draw and discuss your family
__ Discuss and draft a family
__ Review and celebrate your family
strengths, and work to improve them
__ Define your
__ Teach young people about their ancestors and
heritage, and encourage their curiosity.
This Lesson-5 article...
effective family meeting,
defines unique reasons stepfamily-members need to meet
suggestions for successful outcomes, and...
illustrates useful meeting topics.
Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this article. Did you get what
you needed? If so, what do you need now? If not - what
Is there anyone you want to
discuss these ideas with?
Who's answering these
questions - your wise resident
Feedback please - take this
prior page /
/ Lesson-5 links