Family Meeting

Think about it: Family Meetings might be the perfect opportunity for all three generations to spend some all-too-rare time together, unplugged.

That’s right: no cell phones either. Because everything (and everybody) you need, you already have, right there with you. So take a long moment to look around at each other and to quietly give thanks.

Even if you raised your own kids having regular Family Meetings, the three-generation model–like all triangular human interactions–comes with its own set of complications and rewards.

Here’s what Family Meetings should never be: forums for hashing out vendettas or for calling anybody onto the carpet. As Ellen, my daughter, observed: “Both my brother and I have worked hard in Family Meetings to keep the focus on family strengths, and on the strengths of each member. I’ve learned from management philosophy, and from my background in family/human development, that people are who they are. For me, the goal with our family is to celebrate and build on strengths. We don’t operate on a deficit model–i.e., what’s broken and what do we have to fix. That’s the job of family therapy.”

Rules of Order

The first step is to create some basic rules of order to ensure that Family Meetings are built on a foundation of trust, civility, and respect, enabling communication to flourish. They can be read aloud at the beginning of each meeting. Here are some suggestions that have worked for our family:

  • Each of us will get opportunities to be the Teacher and the Learner, the Speaker and the Listener. We take turns and avoid interrupting each other.
  • We don’t put down others’ ideas; we listen respectfully even when we disagree, striving to remain open-minded and not judgmental.
  • We don’t take it as a personal insult if someone does not share our opinions or beliefs.
  • We strive to keep our tone gracious and our words kind. We don’t yell, fight, ridicule, accuse, shame, or name-call.
  • We hold uppermost in our minds that we’ve chosen to undertake this effort because we love and support each other.

Here, again, I”ll upload the value of TRYING. Maybe you won’t get everybody’s buy-in, every time. Whatever you do accomplish, however, will be a big step in the direction of more enriching family connection.

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