First of all, what is a family meeting? A family meeting is a short time when a family gets together to talk about life: Whatever is happening in the upcoming week or month, what issues the family is having, what positive things have been happening in the family, what help is needed, and anything else a family wishes to discuss. Family meetings can happen regularly, like every Sunday, or they can be called by any family member as needed. Family meetings involve the children as much as possible. Children can help facilitate the discussion or answer questions.
After about six months of being separated, I felt the kids craved time when both parents were together. My ex-husband and I were always texting each other about what was happening during the week, who was picking up who, what time events were, etc. Even though we shared a family calendar, we still needed to talk about the specifics on the regular. So, I thought it would be helpful to have regular family meetings each week with the kids so they could have some time with both parents together and my ex and I could discuss details and prepare the kids for the week ahead.
When Not to Have Family Meetings
I wouldn’t suggest this if things are contentious between you and your ex. If they are, grievances could be aired or offenses made in front of the children, and that’s never good because they’ll pick up on that and hurt. So, if things are all-business and you’re able to keep your composure, be calm, and cordial, it may work for you.
How Family Meetings Work
I printed an agenda for each family meeting. I picked one of the family members to be the leader and go through the agenda. We start with each person sharing the best thing that happened to them during the past week. We then share one thing we appreciate about someone else in the family. Then we discuss mom and dad days in the week coming up and discuss any activities the kids are involved in that week. Parents discuss who is taking who where and any other details that are necessary for a smoother week. It usually took about 15-20 minutes.
My Son’s Perspective
I’ve asked my son to chime in about his experience with family meetings. He said they sometimes went on for way too long and the parents discussed topics that the kids weren’t interested in while the kids just sat there. After a few months of this, I felt like I should just have family meetings with me and the kids. It took about 5 minutes but it really helped prepare them for things coming up the next week. I then kept up the family calendar and my ex figured out the details of the week on his own, which he preferred.
Every Wednesday I take my kids to get ice cream. We usually have deep, emotional conversations while eating ice cream for whatever reason. So, I use this time as well for checking in and discussing issues. It seems to go better with ice cream! It’s a great time for the kids and I to bond and get connected on an emotional level.
I’d highly encourage you to make family meetings part of your week. If you’re separated or divorced and can do it with your ex, that’s great. If not, then just you and the kids is good enough. You’re still a family. It can take 5 minutes or 15 minutes, but it’s a great time to check in and make sure the kids are well-informed about their week and have had a chance to discuss what’s on their hearts on the regular. Give it a try. It may seem a bit formal for your family, but you can make it fun by picking an interesting or silly question for each family member to answer during the meeting. It has become a nice ritual for the kids and I and has nurtured our connection with each other.