Family meetings are essential. Start with scripture, fill with honesty, and then end with laughter.
The family meeting has become somewhat of a punchline in some homes. “Why don’t we call a family meeting…” ha ha ha.
You should actually call a family meeting. This became a staple in our house as Gina and I began to blend our two families into one. There was a LOT of adjustment for the kids and we needed to frequently put the whole group of them together, in front of us and each other, to clear the air.
Just before our first family meeting I saw my Bible – a gift from Gina before we got married – and discovered an appropriate verse about kindness that we began the meeting with:
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Epehsians 4:32)
We had the kids sit all around the family room with Gina and I sitting on an ottoman in the center of the room. Things are kept very informal and light. The goal is to encourage open discussion. Often, especially if you haven’t had meetings in a while (or ever), getting the kids talking can be the most challenging part. I will typically pose a question to the group. The more specific, the better. For instance, “Who is happy with the bathroom situation?” (This is a strong “go-to” question because no one is ever happy with the bathroom situation in a house with five kids!)
Once one kid starts speaking from his heart the others will follow. My job is moderator. I make sure it doesn’t digress into strictly a gripe session and that it doesn’t get mean. It can get personal – after all, we’re there to “get real”. But there is a difference between, honest and mean, and I’m the one who decides when that line has been crossed.
After some complaining, I get them to talk about some of the positives in their lives. This allows the mood to lighten a bit and, since I have them actually say the words, they are hearing it from themselves and each other so it is more believable than just another lecture from Dad.
Near the end I try to summarize things, especially the “action items”. These are the things that we all are going to try to do better. I remind them that we are not perfect and that we are likely to continue to fall short of our expectations. We try to sneak in a couple of bad jokes or otherwise inside family punchlines and then send them on their way.
The family meeting is, without a doubt, kinda corny. It can be uncomfortable for everyone at first. If you are not the type who likes confrontation or “public speaking”, this will be as difficult for you as it is for your children. You must overcome these obstacles. The family meeting is a vital tool in keeping your family close and on the right track.