You’ve done your school shopping. Maybe you even implemented a couple new school traditions. But you are left to wonder how you can pull off a school year that is smooth and enjoyable, not riddled with chaos and frustration. Knowing the busy and hectic schedules that await causes you some concern. I understand! That’s why I’d like to share the one tool you need as you head into this new school year.
Maybe your child has already boarded the bus and started their first day of school, or you may have just a few more days to prepare the last of the details. Either way, I’d love to share something we started last school year that made a huge difference in our family. We started doing family meetings! Now I know, you might be wondering how family meetings impacted our school year. And I’d love to tell you!
Each Sunday evening, around 5:30 (a little later if there was a football game) we gather and have our family meeting. We follow the same agenda for each meeting. For those of you who skim or even those who feel the urge to take notes, you might like to know that at the end of this article I provide you our FAMILY MEETING AGENDA TEMPLATE! Don’t miss out!
We choose to take turns letting family members run the meeting. And we choose to open our meeting with prayer (as well as a good swift hammer of a gavel or something nearby that resembles that! LOL!). Whoever is running the meeting says a short prayer, and then we begin.
Icebreaker or Family Activity–
This is intended to only take about five minutes, but it is a fun way for everyone to quickly connect and enjoy each other. What kind of things might this include? Well, we have done various races, such as water relay from one bucket to another (over a vinyl tablecloth), who can fit the most marshmallows in their mouth, musical chairs, wheel barrow races, blowing cotton balls with straws, etc. Essentially, this time is designed to laugh a little and let our guards down. After all, what kid doesn’t like to see Mom or Dad lose a race or look a little silly trying a new skill?!
What’s Going Well?
We take some time to notice the things that are working well for the family right now. Did someone do a great job on chores this week? Was someone willing to help without being asked? Did someone show kindness when it may have been difficult? Did siblings work together well? Was there less arguing? Take time to note what was positive and what blessed you this week and encouraging kids to voice what they noticed as well.
I don’t like to spend too much time here, especially when we want the focus to stay positive and for kids to enjoy this time together, however, it is also important to communicate about things that might need addressed in the coming week. Do we need to spend a little more time being helpful this week? Do we need to be more aware of our attitudes or tone of voices? Do we need to remember to check in upon completion of chores? Do we need to be quicker to listen and slower to get angry? Whatever you choose to bring up, still present it in the positive. In other words, state what you would like to see, and choose the things that feel most pressing so you don’t make this too long or overwhelming. (Think of how you’d feel if you were sitting in front of a team, employer, or spouse and they were asking you to do something different. You’d want it to be pleasant and brief, not demeaning or harsh.)
Review Chore Assignments—
Take a brief moment just to make sure that everyone knows what chore assignments are for the week. We rotate chores every week, so this just allows us the chance to make sure that everyone is up to speed on what their area is for the week. Which bathroom is yours this week? Are you in charge of the living room or mudroom? Who has the downstairs family room? Sometimes we assume everyone knows their role, and the truth is…some kids just need a little more communication to be on the same page!
We go day by day and list out all the things we have going. Is there anything we need to remember to return to school, provide for class, or otherwise take care of? What after-school activities are taking place and where? Who goes where and when? This allows us to get a quick glimpse of what our evenings might look like and where our free time might be found! It also gives everyone a sense of what is to come and that their activities are important to the family.
This might sound crazy, but this is one of our kids’ favorite parts! They love to suggest something that they really enjoy. It also gives them some buy-in to what will be served during the week, and for picky eaters that can be huge! We don’t promise to do everything they suggest, but we usually try to pick three ideas during the week and the kids love to see their suggestions come to life! It is an easy way to encourage team work! I must admit I have been a little surprised to hear some of their suggestions and to learn that some of my forgotten meals were actually family faves!
Now this might be more of an issue with pre-teens and teens, but how often do you hear… “Well, I’ve been out of deodorant for a long time!” or “Well I don’t have face wash. I haven’t had that for several weeks!” or “Oh, ya, I told my teacher I’d bring dessert for our class celebration today!” (And we all have those freshly decorated cupcakes sitting and waiting, right!) Once you hear this a few times or have seen or smelled the outcome when it does happen, you will be looking for an easy way to solve the problem! And this is it! We take just a brief moment to check up on any specific needs for bathroom, hygiene, or items for school. With just a little purposeful communication, kids feel like their needs really do matter (and you’re not left with silly excuses for not using deodorant or missing your turn to provide class snacks)!
Family Service Activity–
We decide as a family on one task that we could do that week to help or bless someone else. Some of our ideas have included having a family over for a meal, sending a letter of encouragement, sharing baked goods, doing a task for someone in need, donating time or materials to a church project, or sharing money with somebody that might have a specific financial concern. There are so many options for what you can do as a family. Some churches or community groups have organized activities that you could be part of as well. You can make this as simple or detailed as you choose and as your schedule allows. And don’t ever underestimate how much even a simple hand written note of encouragement can mean to someone else.
Goal for the Week–
This is something that we usually add rather quickly, as we try to focus on a smaller task but one that can make a difference for our home. We have had weeks we focused on cleaning a particular area of the house, organizing bedrooms, tackling our cubbies in the mudroom, or catching up on laundry. Each family member knows there are sometimes bigger tasks that we can each contribute a little to and then the bigger project can be accomplished. But this could be a goal of any kind! With nine family members, we probably have a few more goals to try and maintain some order in our living space than others! So feel free to be creative!
Family Concerns/Topics of Discussion–
We take a brief time to allow anyone to add something that they feel needs to be discussed during this time. In order to keep this from being a free-for-all time though, we ask that they put their topic, question, or request in a box some time before the meeting, so that it can be added to the agenda (pending parent approval…so anything that wouldn’t be appropriate or reasonable can be discussed alone with the child). What might this include, well, some of these for our family included asking that the outside cat become an inside cat, asking about a change of bed times, requesting that siblings not use a nickname that was undesirable, that siblings please take time to wrestle with a younger sibling, and that we as parents go on a date! I encourage you to take time to deliberate, discuss, and then decide with a generous amount of appropriate yes responses! This teaches your child an appropriate way to bring their concerns up and to feel heard. They can also learn that when we say no, it may have some vary valid reasons behind it, rather than a hard fast NO!It is surprising to me as a counselor to hear the number of people that have no idea how to ask for what they need or want. Teaching our child how to do this allows them to learn appropriate ways to get their needs met! Click To Tweet
Since we have decided to alternate who leads the meetings, we take time to acknowledge who will be leading the following meeting. This person then closes the meeting, and we have chosen to do that with a short prayer. This involves two children (both in opening and closing) with the process of the meeting, learning leadership, and feeling excited to contribute to the family.
How has this helped us?
In numerous ways! I can see many positive effects on our family. These are a few:
Increases family team work
Highlights family togetherness, communication, and fun
Streamlines the events or needs of a family
Encourages those with busy schedules to see on paper how it will really work
Gives each member of family a feeling of significance and contribution
Increases each person’s buy-in to the week ahead
Stimulates a family to truly stop and express the positives
Teaches appropriate ways to communicate concerns
Builds in a structure to learn to express your needs at any age
Fosters a feeling of comradery and fun whether parent or child
Emphasizes the idea at the start of each week that family is priority
Strengthens the concept that communication is key
Allows your family flexibility to meet the needs of each member
Hands down, this will be the best, and most effective twenty minutes you could set aside each week! I promise! Now remember: the key is to keep this moving and upbeat! These work best when the energy is up and you don’t labor the points. After, all, you want your family to look forward to family meetings! Aim to keep the meeting about twenty minutes long, but no longer than thirty. And keep the tone positive!
Design your own meeting
You can design this time to include what matters most to your family. Add some details or ideas that would fit the needs of your family member, home, or schedule. But I can’t encourage you enough to give this a shot! I am so excited for others to implement this plan in their home, that I am including an easy template that you can use each week for your family meeting agenda. I want to make this super easy!
Free Resource for you!
So, if you’d like a copy of this FAMILY MEETING AGENDA (without the watermark) be sure to check out this link. If you are currently a subscriber to my newsletters, it will already be in your inbox! You will be able to print this form and use it however you would like! Feel free to share with your family and friends as well! And don’t forget to tell me how it makes a difference in your family too!