The Family Relationship: Parenting through Communication
Family relationships change as children grow and mature. Family relationships also changes as parents learn and mature and become more comfortable in their role of parent. Using effective communication is paramount to healthy family relationships. Young children are just stretching their communication muscles when they are toddlers. They do this by asserting their independence by communicating their likes and dislikes and telling parents and siblings what they want to do and don’t want to do.
Expressing ones opinion is a part of being an individual and having feelings one way or another on a millions topics. When a child becomes old enough to express their opinion, it is a good time to start holding routine family meetings. Family meetings allow all family members to have input on family issues. It is important to note, that not all decisions a parent or parents make are up for a family vote. There are many decisions parents have to make for the good of the family that may be a topic for discussion in a family meeting but not up for vote.
The Family Relationship: The Family Meeting
You may be wondering what a family meeting is and this is good. It is important to define and understand what a family meeting is before you initiate this communication strategy with the family. Once you feel like you know the purpose of a family meeting and how it can benefit communication within the family, you are ready to host the first family meeting.
Begin the family meeting by defining or explaining what a family meeting is to the gathered family members. A family meeting is a time when all family members can talk freely about: the family schedule and routines, how they are feeling about different things that are going on in the family, things they like and dislike about the family, conflicts they are having with family members and things they are proud about. The purpose of the family meeting is to: 1) let family members know how one another are feeling, 2) listen to each other, 3) be empathic and help one another and 4) solve problem together.
A very important standard to set for the family meeting is that members can say anything they feel in a respectful manner and not be afraid they will be judged or punished for being honest.
The Family Relationship: The Family Meeting Schedule
After the members of the family understand the purpose of the family meeting, one of the first issues they can work on together is how often should the family meeting be held. There is no set in stone rule for how often to hold the family meeting.
Families are different and will decide the schedule for the family meeting based on their needs and schedules. If family relationships are fragile when the family meeting is initiated, it might be appropriate to hold the family meeting on a frequent schedule. Although it may hard to meet together to communicate about family and interpersonal issues, communication is the best way to promote healing and develop healthier communication in the family.
When the family has adjusted to the family meeting approach of communication, the frequency of the meetings might be reduced to say monthly or bi-weekly. Anyone can call a family meeting when unexpected situations crop up and the family has been thrown into a dither.
The Family Relationship: The Family Meeting Facilitator
In an effort to show respect for all family members, sharing the role of leader or facilitator is a good rule to make. Even small children can facilitate the family meeting after they have participated in several meetings and have seen what to do. A parent, or older sibling, can help younger family members when it is their turn to lead.
It is the responsibility of the leader of the family meeting to put together the agenda before the meeting. This can be done by talking with each family member about whether they want something discussed at the family meeting. The leader of the family meeting manages the meeting by introducing each agenda item and keeping the meeting on track.
The Family Relationship: Ideas for the Family Meeting
Every family will develop their own style of family meeting. Here are a few ideas to consider that will keep your family meeting running smoothly.
1. Post a family meeting agenda list for family members to use to write down ideas for agenda items for the next family meeting. This list could be posted on the refrigerator or family bulletin board
2. Appoint a note taker for each family meeting. Of course, this responsibility is assigned to family members who are old enough to read and write efficiently. Having a written document that describes the decisions made for each family meeting agenda item ensures everyone is on the same page.
3. During the first family meeting talk about listening – how to listen and when to listen. You may need to practice these listening skills with younger children. This teaching and listening practice may need to continue over several family meetings until children and adults understand the talking, listening and the turn talking process of good communication.
How to Plan a Family Indoor Picnic
Fun, Frugal At-Home Activities for Snow Days
How to Include Teachable Moments During Family Game Night
Family Fun Night on the Cheap