If your family is anything like ours, you are all constantly running in different directions. With two working parents, a teen and a toddler, our schedules can get out of control. One simple way to reign in the chaos is to hold a family meeting. A few years ago, our work schedules and our daughter’s school and theater rehearsal schedules were getting to be too much to handle. We never knew who needed to be where and when, or who was free to do the picking up and dropping off. Then I got a job that required me to travel to D.C. one week every month. And then we had our son and we were quickly running on empty.
It seemed like every day was a challenge. Until I came across the idea for holding family meetings to run through upcoming events and schedules. Family meetings shouldn’t only be for breaking bad news or dishing out punishments, they can be a useful tool to help get everyone on the same page. When we finally sat down and started holding family meetings routinely, we all felt less stressed and even a little more connected. If you are struggling with all of the daily, weekly and monthly activities you and your kids are running around to get to, I recommend trying a few family meetings to see if this helps.
First, pick a time, day and sequence for your family meetings.
We choose to hold ours weekly on Sunday evenings. Even if one of us is on travel, we try to keep to the schedule. We aren’t perfect, but we do try to keep up. Sunday evenings give us time to look ahead to the coming week. We go through our shared Google family calendar and review what’s coming up. We also add in things we may have forgotten to enter in.
Back when Chuck was working at NASA, his schedule was all over the place (running space is hard, yo). He had zero consistency and worked a ton of nights, weekends and holidays. These weekly meetings helped us get organized with pick up and drop off of the kids, grocery shopping, evening duties, general kid taxi driving, etc.
Pick a day that works for your family. You may not want to do this weekly and that’s ok. Maybe only once a month is good for you. Or once a quarter. Whatever you choose, make sure to be consistent. You can FaceTime on those days when you aren’t all in the same room.
You should have some kind of family meeting agenda.
Structure doesn’t always work well for everyone so be flexible with the agenda if you need to. At a minimum, our agenda looks like this:
- Run through the shared family calendar for the week
- Discuss any items that need to be added and add them realtime
- Make task assignments (groceries, pick up/drop off)
- Meal planning ideas for the week
- Upcoming school projects/tests/assignments
- Fun things to do as a family for the next weekend
- Review our annual “fun” list and see what we haven’t done yet
- Open discussion – any topic anyone wants to bring up
- Once a month, talk about vacation ideas
What’s an annual fun list? Each year, we brainstorm all of the cool things we all want to do for the year, type up the list and put it in Google docs. From major things like booking a family cruise vacation to visiting a local winery or the zoo, we throw it all on there. It gives us no excuse to run out of things to do.
Just like choosing a day and sequence for your family meetings, the agenda should fit your family. Some families like to give praise or recognition for accomplishments during this time. That’s cool. Others add some spiritual stuff. Also cool if that’s your thing. Think about what you would like to talk about with your family and write it down somewhere and give everyone a chance to weigh in.
Give everyone a chance to speak during your meetings.
Family meetings should be a collaborative effort, not dictated by the adults in the room. Let everyone have a say. I have found it to be really helpful to have the kids weigh in on meal ideas, fun activities and vacation planning. They always think of something we didn’t even consider. And it is nice to give them a platform to talk to all of us about anything they want, uninterrupted. If you have a tween or teen in your house, this may be the only time you can get them to come out and speak to you, too. Haha!
Take turns picking the location for your family meetings.
Your dining room table or couch in the living room might make the best location for your family meetings, but it’s fun to mix it up a little. Let everyone take turns choosing the location for your meetings. We have held ours at playgrounds, restaurants, the backyard, living room, wineries, even on the beach while we were on vacation. This is another way to get everyone involved and helps build that family connection that we tend to take for granted each day.
Do you hold family meetings? I’d love to hear about any tips you may have for running your own meetings. What works for you and what doesn’t?