Is your idea of family communication a note left on the refrigerator or a nod whilst passing in the hallway?
Great communication is the key to great relationships. But for communication within families, it’s especially important because it offers the whole family a resilient and loving buffer, which helps all the members cope better in the outside world. And specifically children.
The way the family communications sets the tone for how the whole family interacts with the rest of society. This is especially true for work, school and love relationships.
To improve the whole family’s ability to create healthy and intimate relationships in the wider world, why not start a “Family Meeting” and create to promote structure for amazing communications?
How Does A Family Meeting Create Amazing Family Communication?
The Family Meeting is an opportunity for all members of the family to get together on a regular basis. It’s a gathering of the family in one place, at one time.
MIND[i], the UK’s leading mental health charity, explains that meeting in groups may:
help you to talk about what you are feeling and experiencing
help you share suggestions for coping techniques and support options
introduce you to ideas and approaches that have been helpful to others
reassure you that you're not the only person who has felt like this
increase your self esteem and confidence over time help you see how common mental health problems are, and that everyone experiencing them deserves support
provide a sense of belonging to a community of people with similar experiences
give you a safety net to turn to at difficult times or if you’re at risk of crisis help you to find support that's right for you
help you feel more empowered about your own wellbeing, if you feel disillusioned with the support you've received so far
If it works for groups generally, why can’t it work for families? After all, they are another group.
Working as a group can be incredibly uplifting if it is well managed. The times I spent in good groups gave me an amazing insight to the way others saw me and, from this personal work, I grew beyond my dreams. The benefits of those groups continue to support me today.
How Does It Work?
When we learn to talk to each other with openness, respect, love and humour, it’s an extraordinary thing but it makes family members are much more willing to help each other.
Because trust grows, each family member is secure in the knowledge that the paths of communication are constantly open. What we need is talked about and demands contained.
Acceptance of who we are replaces judgment. Hurts are aired without recrimination.
A Family Meeting creates a safe place to share stuff that would normally be hidden from the rest of the family. And then an opportunity to receive support from other family members.
Each member gets to feel safer and safer. Then they're able to open up and show their authentic selves but at the same time, feel happy to challenge something they don’t like or have a problem with. Spontaneous communication becomes normal and individuals’ happiness increases.
It maybe a little daunting for everyone all to sit around the table and talk about how emotions, thoughts and points of view. Uncomfortable even. However, as time goes on it gets easier and then family members look forward to their meetings. This is lightening quick for the children.
A Family Meeting is simple to follow. Everyone understands it. And, the whole concept is flexible to allow the ebb and flow of family life.
How To Run A Family Meeting
Hold a family meeting when you can - just make it fit in with your plans.
This may mean you run a family meeting every morning before everyone disappears for the day; it may mean you hold one once a week, perhaps at the weekend when everyone is available.
Children don't like to be left out of so the schedule may well fit around them. The main thing is to make it fun and not a chore.
Here's how the meeting works; this is the Agenda for each meeting.
The agenda of the Family Meeting is as follows:
2. What do we want to achieve today and what help do we need?
3. How everyone is feeling?
4. Any other business
Here’s the agenda explained.
It’s important to formally open the meeting. Whoever’s chairing can just say: “the meeting’s now open” …or something similar.
What do we want to achieve today and what help do we need?
This is when everyone, one at a time, says what they would like to do today and ask for help from any other member to achieve it. They can ask other people for help or suggestions and that person can reply and then it moves onto the next person.
How is everyone feeling?
This is a chance for everyone to say how they feel, one at a time, starting with ‘I feel’. No one comments or advises.
Any other business
Anyone can bring up any issues that don’t fit into the other headings and this can be discussed by everyone.
It’s important to formally close the meeting. Whoever’s chairing can just say: “the meeting’s now closed” …or something similar.
The Golden Rules
1. Only one person talks at a time - there isa no cross-talk as this
violates safety. This is really, really important. Even if something is said that prompts extreme feelings in another person, the sanctity of the meeting means that there is no interruption; especially when people are expressing how they feel. This creates a safe and trusting place to share.
2. Everyone has a chance to speak and if they don't wish to speak, they `pass' without anyone questioning why.
3. Talking goes around in a sequence so all members know when their turn is coming.
4. Members are not judged on their comments or statements.
5. Keep it short; anything from 5 – 20 minutes
The chair is taken by a different member of the family at each meeting. A rota is drawn up to establish the order of the chairperson.
Children from an early age must be included as chairperson....from about 6 years old depending on the child. It is may be helpful to a child if the format is simply written. Children love being included and it helps their self esteem to be one of the team. Include them as soon as you can in chairing the meeting.
What Can You Expect In Your Family Communication When You Start A Family Meeting?
a family unity that has not been experienced before
a growing sense of respect between all family members members
members feeling safer with other members
Children will gain:
feeling included into the adult world
a greater sense of autonomy
an increasing self-respect
a vehicle with which they can take some family responsibility
an increase in their awareness of the world
the ability to run a team meeting
A difficult meeting:
The meeting may seem difficult at first, and people may want to leave the meeting; this is absolutely OK but the meeting will carry on without them. Once they leave, they can't come back because this may distract everyone else. Members can talk about their own feelings but not to tell another member how or who they are. We must start our comments with `I' not 'you'.
A troubled meeting:
If there are unresolved issues in the family then the family meeting could become very painful and confrontational and this would be especially prevalent if there is a depression within the family.
In this case, these matters can be addressed in or out of the family meeting.
It may mean that some extra help is needed to get the family back on track. Perhaps some family therapy. If the family meeting does highlight some problems, then it has been a valuable tool to establish the status quo so that healing and wholeness may then take place
Keep it simple, fun and animated. It's a fantastic instrument to create family harmony. It's brilliant to bring together step-families. If visitors are staying, they are welcome to join in. At the end of the meeting, it's lovely to embrace the family in whatever feels comfortable.
Please Let Me Know How Your Family Meeting Goes….
Please let me know the outcome of putting your Family Meeting in place. I’d love to hear how your internal communication is turning up the love in your family. Catch me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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