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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Stress Dismissed: Why Family Meetings Actually Work

October 26, 2012

I originally wrote a version of this article for TakePart.com, an interactive publisher and the digital arm of Participant Media, the company responsible for award-winning films such as An Inconvenient TruthFood Inc.Waiting for SupermanCharlie Wilson’s WarContagion and The Help.

Falling into a less stressful school routine

Back in early June, sweet summer beckoned with infinite possibilities. Hopefully some of the good ones became realities for you and your family. Either way, summer has come and gone, the frost is on the pumpkin, and we’re up to our knees in a new school year.

Now and always, you are your child’s most influential teacher. Which means that every day you have wonderful opportunities to lead and mentor so that next June you and your child can look back and say, “This has been a great year.”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. How about calling a family meeting to take stock of how things are going? Don’t like the term family meeting? Call it whatever you want, but before any more time flits by, gather the troops for an open conversation centered on what is working well with your Monday-Friday routine and what isn’t. This conversation may take 30 minutes (give or take), so everyone ought to be comfortable. Sitting around a table is good for that. It also encourages eye contact, always a plus when talking to someone. Appointing a “secretary” with a pen and paper to record ideas/agreements is very helpful. Oh, and snacks are always appreciated.

One more suggestion—during family meetings, unplug from all phones, etc. I realize many of us, and our connection-addicted kids, may feel uncomfortable without our phones, but unplug anyway. A digital-free family meeting sends a message: This discussion is important to our family and we want everyone to have a chance to speak and to be listened to with respect. That means no interruptions.With ground rules established and the clear goal to improve family relationships vs. playing a blame game, let the conversation begin.

School-related causes of family stress include:

  • Getting out the door in the morning (including waking up on time, bathroom, getting breakfast, preparing lunch, getting schoolwork into backpacks, etc.)
  • Afterschool activity schedule
  • Afterschool childcare arrangements
  • Afterschool pickup schedule
  • Dinner
  • Homework
  • Bedtime

As you and your kids focus on each of these areas ask, “How is that working for you…son/daughter? Here’s how it is for me.” Be honest with each other. If, for example, mornings are tense because Brother can’t get himself up and out the door on time, then it would be foolish (OK, insane) to go through a whole school year like that. Something has to change. Talk about how it feels to wait for him, stressing, and then to have to drive to school like a crazy person because you’re late. Talk respectfully (no blaming or shaming). Then work together to create some solutions so the family doesn’t get locked into a continuous loop of unacceptable behavior.

The same goes with unacceptable parent behavior. If, for example, Dad agrees to pick up Daughter after sports practice at 5 p.m., but ninety percent of the time he arrives at 5:20 p.m., then something needs to change. (Are you listening, Dad?)

Talk and listen respectfully. Brainstorm new strategies. Hold each other accountable. That’s the way to conduct a successful family meeting. But don’t stop with the negative stuff! There are things that you and the kids are doing very well this school year. Take time at this meeting to acknowledge the cooperation and the successes. Those are the things your family wants to—and needs to—keep repeating.

Vote! It's good modeling for your kids.

 

 

 

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4 Comments »

  1. The family meeting idea is good but my experience – three marriages – two respectable sons aged 29 and 15 – is that the problems which are not able to be resolved at ‘meetings’ are where honesty is not present and these are the sad reality today.
    Kids (and adults) are often great actors and in every case of abuse, neglect or trauma the facts only come out long after the fears and lies are exposed.
    Society itself deals cruelly with the issues of punishment – parents cant (nor should they) lash out at their kids – yet kids are ashamed and scared to fess up when they partake in activities that are not understood, approved of, or indulged in by the parents. Or visa-versa. Drinking, drugs, sex, smoking, gambling etc.
    In these cases which sometimes lead to tragic consequences, ‘family meetings’ are simply the foundation for a framework of secrecy where the parent(s) think they understand but are scared to delve deeper into their kids lives whilst at the same time that the youth are scared to tell the parents of their real lives in fear of further and sure disapproval.

    Walking your kid to school, sitting on the bed of your teen having a truthful 1:1 chat about life, its good and bad are worth 1000 meetings.

    Comment by Farrell Segall — October 27, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

  2. I am thank I’ve found your website! As a school counselor at an intermediate school, there is much information here to help parents! Personally, our family has had a family meeting time on Sunday nights for about 6 years now. It is helpful and also provides bonding time as we spend some time singing and encouraging each other in the midst of rolling eyes and “Are we done yet” from the teenagers at times. Thanks for sharing this.

    Comment by Brenda Yoder — October 28, 2012 @ 11:39 am

  3. [...] came across this resource from Annie Fox’s blog on family meetings.  As school a counselor I highly recommend it.  As a mom, I recommend it because a few years ago [...]

    Pingback by The Weird Family | Life Beyond the Picket Fence — October 28, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

  4. [...] your children’s awareness of the connection between appreciation, kindness and respect call a family meeting. You might start off the discussion by saying: Everyone likes to feel appreciated. But sometimes [...]

    Pingback by Day 4: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Why do I have to say ‘thank you’?) | Annie Fox's Blog — October 4, 2013 @ 7:14 pm

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