Now that everyone’s getting to be in touch with family on a whole new level it seems like a great opportunity to revisit the practice of the family meeting. I never really understood the idea of a family meeting growing up. My parents, both Caribbean born and raised, never wanted to get in touch with their feelings that kind of way. But now that I’m a mother and have my own family I started to investigate this concept a bit deeper.
I was fortunate enough to take a parenting workshop offered by my kids’ school a couple years ago. Ramapo, an organization based in Upstate New York, provides several supportive services for nurturing children on a holistic level. Their parenting workshop was an experimental offering that I found through the school. It opened up the doorway to some solid foundation work around what a family meeting can look like. I used some of the ideas from there and created a family meeting experience for my own partner and children. We’ve grown to love this practice and it continues to evolve with us as a unit.
A Family Meeting can be whatever you want (or need)
The first thing that I like to offer by way of a family meeting is that it can be whatever you want it or need it to be for you and your family. We started our family meeting by just talking about what it would be for us. I got out some butcher paper and markers and we talked about who we wanted to be as a family. What did we want our home, our household to look like and feel like? This sparked a creative brainstorm that included things like peace, cleanliness, order, love and laughter.
The poster that we created together as a family also doubles as our family contract.
And from there we offer ourselves whatever actions we wanted to be committed to create that space in our home. This turned into what we call our family values. The poster that we created together as a family also doubles as our family contract. It hangs in our dining room area so that on a weekly basis (although we’re not consistent with this, I’ll fully own) we can reference our family values and check in with each other around the table around how those values are showing up in our week-to-week activity.
Other than the weekly check-in and how we’re showing up creating laughter, calm and love in the world and in our home, we also check in on things like new family business. This ranges from my son wanting to take soccer next season, to the kids asking for additional screen time. Or negotiating what their homework routines look like. They also lead into conversations about moving and buying a new family car as well. Sometimes the meeting is topical – conversations around why someone lied that week or what it means to re-establish trust as a family unit. Ideally our family meetings occur every week.
A Family Meeting can be whenever you want (or need)
When the world was quote-unquote “normal” we held them on Friday nights but now our family is present together all the time. So sometimes a family meeting can happen on an impromptu basis. When we discovered that New York City Public Schools were going to be closed for the rest of the school year I just walked into the living room, and called an impromptu family meeting.
In so many ways family meeting is the shareholders meeting for your family unit.
And we discussed what we wanted the next few months to look like, now that it was certain the children would not be returning to public school. These conversations that sometimes originated in the family meetings lead to broader conversations that need to be had.
Conversations that maybe my partner and I can have about moving, finances, educating our children, menu planning, etc. In so many ways family meeting is the shareholders meeting for your family unit. It’s not something one should miss.
What does your Family Meeting look like?
How do you think you can incorporate this old suburban tradition and make it something that lives and breathes in your family life? Is it sitting down to establish order, family values? Or creating a routine for checking in on how your actions align with your family values? It could be just having a designated space and time to bring new ideas about how the family is operating. Or about impacts to family finances, and rituals or habits.
Creating space to have these conversations allows our families not only to operate in harmony but also to actively create the environment they want within their home. And those things also tend to manifest outside the home as well. Something to look forward to when they let us all outside again. Let me know if you design a family meeting structure for your family. I would love to see pictures of your family contracts and values.