Thursday, February 21, 2013

How To Hold a Family Meeting

No matter how much you love them, family can be a source of tremendous conflict. It can be difficult to coordinate the changing needs and schedules of every family member, and it can be downright impossible to make everyone happy. If you're struggling to keep your family organized and the lines of communication open, regular family meetings might be the key.
What Is a Family Meeting?
A family meeting can be whatever you want to make of it. In general, regular family meetings provide a time when all members of the family come together to share, discuss, problem-solve, and, most importantly, communicate. Some families choose to hold structured and formal meetings with very specific rules, while others are far more flexible and relaxed. What your family meetings look like will depend largely on your family, and what works for you and your lifestyle.
Why Hold a Family Meeting?
There are many benefits to holding regular family meetings. For example, family meetings can serve to:
                keep the lines of communication open
                foster a greater sense of responsibility within children
                diffuse sibling rivalry
                encourage discussion and cooperation
                build family unity
                develop listening and positive communication skills
By holding regular family meetings, you create space in your lives where you will be able to discuss any issue that confronts your family. Whether it's something as small as a squabble over who will do the dishes or as large as a death or divorce, you know you will have time to address it as a family. In addition, parents will routinely be able to touch base with their children and listen to their concerns, and children will have the opportunity to have their voice heard by their parents and siblings.
Tips For Getting Started
Once you've decided to start holding family meetings, there are a few things you should think about.
1. Set rules
If you have young children, mom and dad will probably set the rules. But if you have older children, you might consider giving them some input into how the meeting will go. Some families choose a round-robin style, where every family member gets a turn to talk about their week, express their grievances, and offer their opinions. Other families prefer to make a list of pressing family issues and concerns, and talk about them openly as they proceed down the list.
You'll also want to consider who will lead the meetings. It can be fun, particularly for younger children, to take turns and give each family member an opportunity to be in charge.
2. Decide your goals
Why are you holding family meetings? Is it just a way to check in and let everybody share details of their week? Will your meetings be primarily for coordinating schedules? Are there lots of arguments in your home that will require conflict resolution? Once you know what you're hoping to accomplish, it will be easier to frame your family meetings accordingly.
3. Set a regular time and place
In the beginning, it's a good idea to have weekly family meetings. This way, the meetings become a familiar part of your family's routine. Maybe Friday night in the family room after dinner works best for your family, or maybe you have teens who cringe at the thought of spending Friday night with their parents. Try to accomodate everybody if you can. If nothing else, consider having a family meeting in the car. Hey, you've got them all in the same place!
4. Determine your decision-making process
How you choose to make decisions will probably depend on the way your household generally runs. If you're comfortable with democracy, family meetings can be a great place for kids to learn first-hand how it works. But many parents find that they prefer to make decisions by consensus rather than by simple majority vote. This way, the children can't outnumber the adults, and mom and dad maintain their right to the final say.
5. Make it fun
Family meetings shouldn't be boring or something for anyone to dread. Make them special by popping popcorn or serving some special treats. Encourage a positive atmosphere where no yelling is allowed and every person and every idea and suggestion is treated with respect.
What To Talk About
Once you've determined the logistics, you'll want to start thinking about the issues that need to be addressed at your family meetings. You'll probably want to include time to discuss many or all of the following:
                positive recogition
                complaints and conflict resolution
                the family budget/allowance
                rules and chores
                plans for upcoming events (vacations, birthdays, etc.)
                scheduling and logistics
One of the best ways to plan your family meetings is by taping a piece of paper marked "agenda" to your refrigerator or family work space at the beginning of the week. As the week progresses, any family member can add any issue or complaint that they think of to the agenda.
When it's time for the family meeting, use your agenda to get discussion started. You can also draw from the categories above. Some families even include discussions of hot topics at their family meetings. (I'm thinking politics or current events here, not Lindsay Lohan.)
Helpful Hints
In order to ensure that your family meetings are a success, there are a few things you should remember. It's important to eliminate distractions, so turn off the TV and don't allow phone calls or texting. Keep the meetings short (20-30 minutes is long enough), and make attendance by all family members a priority. Most importantly, be flexible. If you find that your family meetings are unproductive, try a new approach. Every family is different, so every family meeting will be unique. It may take some time to figure out what style works best for you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

10 Tips For Raising Happy Parents

It’s no secret that parenting well is a complex art form and each of us brings our own unique style and beliefs into the day to day raising of the children in our lives. But here are ten ways of thinking about your parenting career that can help, no matter what your style or the current age of your “baby”.

1. Your work as a parent needs and deserves lots of support from family, friends, neighbors, employers and the greater community around you. Your children need other caring adults in their lives and you need and deserve respect, rest, and relaxation.

2. Parenting can be especially difficult in the same areas where you faced challenges in your own childhood. It’s not fair, but science demonstrates it again and again. The spots in your growing-up that were rough are likely to be hard on you when your children go through similar things. You need and deserve special support and a caring listener as you face these challenges together with your children.

3. Paying careful attention to your past or present challenges improves your relationships with your children. The fascinating research on the Adult Attachment Interview conducted over the last several decades demonstrates how helping parents understand their own personal histories creates better attachment relationships in their children. You can help another parent—and their whole family—whenever you can take the time to carefully listen to their struggles, and they can help you in the same way.

4. Crying is good, normal and healthy. Crying is communication. Crying and upset are part of a normal cycle of stress reduction. Tears are composed of stress hormones that are literally being washed out of your body as you cry. Children who are allowed to cry with the loving support of an adult complete this natural cycle and return to clear thinking and cooperative action quickly with improved ability to solve problems.

5. Tantrums are healthy and healing. I know this one may take some time to get your mind around, but here’s the thing—when you cultivate a relationship with your child that allows for acceptance of all feelings, even though you obviously can’t accept all behavior, you increase your child’s emotional intelligence, resilience and self-acceptance.

6. Limits should be set early, at the first whiff of off-track behavior. Before you are aggravated, before the kids are “driving you nuts,” you can bring your limits.

7. Limits can be set gently, warmly, even playfully. You are in charge of the rules, but you don’t have to wait until you are angry to set a limit. You don’t have to use a stern voice, threaten or intimidate. Children want good relationships with the adults who care for them. Your children want to be with you, to laugh and enjoy your time together, to cooperate, play, and have fun.

8. Time-Out promotes disconnection, encourages emotional repression and damages relationships. Solitary confinement is a punishment for a reason. Human beings are not built to go it alone, especially in times of emotional upset.

9. Spanking produces negative long-term results for both children and parents. If you’ve ever been hit, you know this. But don’t take my word for it, ask your pediatrician.

10. Paying thoughtful attention as children express their authentic emotional experience is the best way to support their development and growing emotional intelligence. You don’t even need to understand the reason behind an upset or an unworkable behavior in order to help a child with the underlying feelings. Children are smart. They will figure out what they need to express, share it, and go on about their business lighter, happier, and with a stronger trust in their relationship with you.