Family Meeting: something to start before you have teenagers

Family Meeting: something to start before you have teenagers

We’ve been doing Family Meeting for over three years now. Just listen to testimonials from a few participants:

Husband: I like that we established it when they’re young so that it’s normal when they’re older. I like that it allows them to give input on our weekend. I like the penguins. I think it gave a logical venue to discuss the race stuff.

9 year old: I kind of like the planning stuff and knowing what we’re doing.

6 year old: Well, I don’t know if I even think it’s fun.

Fair enough.

So, what IS Family Meeting?

It’s carved out time when we look back at our past week, look forward to the next one, and share a story and discussion. The ritual goes something like this:

Light a CANDLE

Read a STORY

Discuss the story and CHARACTERS

Plan the WEEKEND

Consult next week’s CALENDAR

Look back with PENGUINS

Say a PRAYER

*

CANDLE: We light a candle and sing the chorus of “This Little Light of Mine” to signal the start of the meeting.

STORY: In 2017, we started by reading Desmond Tutu’s illustrated Children’s Bible. Since the death of George Floyd, we’ve read books about people of color (POC).

CHARACTERS: We spend a few weeks on each POC. So far, we’ve learned about Ruby Bridges, John Lewis, Kamala Harris, Harriet Tubman, and Thurgood Marshall. * True story: the 2.5 year old will request that Alexa “play the Darth Vader song by John Lewis” (instead of John Williams). Proof that even when they’re little, they’re absorbing more than we think.

WEEKEND: For the kids, we ask them each what’s one fun thing they want to do during the weekend. My husband and I earmark some time for ourselves, and (usually) focus on a task to complete in or outside the house.

CALENDAR: We go through the weekdays and confirm activities and commitments. (This is the part where my husband says we are overscheduled, and I look at him sheepishly.)

PENGUINS: This is a cute addition that started a few months back. In “Penguins of Madagascar,” Private is constantly striving to be “a meaningful and valued member of the team.” In my daily gratitude journal, I take note of actions that are meaningful and valuable between family members.

I also make it a point to focus on areas that are challenges for the specific person: when my husband steps out during his work day so I can get something done, when the oldest is actually nice to the middle one, when the middle remembers his socks, when the little tells us he has to go pee. It’s basically a warm fuzzy packaged as a penguin.

PRAYER: We close the meeting with the Lord’s Prayer and then we definitely don’t fight over who gets to blow out the candle.

And there you have it: Family Meeting.

(Once a year, we also set our personal and family goals. This is where we decided on our family motto: “Gossers show up.”)

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