Family meetings provide opportunities for feelings to be aired and validated. They also allow younger children to feel they are an important part of the decision-making process when it comes to family vacations and other major and minor family functions.
Before the first meeting commences, set a few ground rules such as:
Speak in a calm tone.
Avoid name-calling, finger-pointing, and sarcasm.
Turn off the TV, radio and telephones.
Allow each person to voice his or her concerns and ideas.
Listen to all opinions before making a decision.
If a person voices a complaint, they must also bring to the table at least one possible remedy to the situation.
Locations for future family meetings may also be brainstormed at the first meeting. Here are a few examples:
Very simply, sit on the floor together, in a circle. Designate an object as a "talking token". This can be a small stuffed animal, a necklace to be worn, a hat, or any other item that will be passed around. Whoever holds the talking token may speak. Once they are finished, they must pass the token to the next person.
Take turns choosing a favorite restaurant to host your family meetings. For this option, choose an afternoon or evening in the middle of the week, or at off-peak times, to avoid heavy crowds. End the meeting before dessert arrives, so everyone can indulge their sweet tooth happily.
I know of several families who hold their meetings at places that cater to their favorite hobbies. For instance, one family conducts their meeting at a bowling alley. Once the meeting is over, they enjoy bowling together. Another family combines their gathering with their love of books, by meeting at a caf' in their favorite bookstore. And yet another family I know holds their weekly meeting after a joyful round of put-put golf. This option combines family communication and fun.
However, and wherever, your family decides to host the meetings, remember this all-important point: Always end each meeting with a hug!