An excellent way to learn the How? of family meetings is to watch one in action. And here you can be part of the action! Get three more people to join you, and read together a scripted role play. This one shows a family of four with an impossible problem to solve, one that is making things pretty miserable for at least some in the family. [Remember, families include housemates and other groupings too.] Discover how the impossible can change. Then come back to this How? page for more helpful instructions.
Family Meetings – How?
- Keep an agenda posted for the upcoming meeting (see sample Agenda form below).
- Decide on frequency of meetings, time, and place.
- Volunteers sign up to facilitate, record, and to be in charge of refreshments (the latter being a key to successful meetings!). Don’t underestimate children’s abilities to facilitate, but don’t push them into this role before they feel comfortable and ready to do so. Let them learn by parents’ modeling for some time, and then start them with one item at one meeting, rather than an entire meeting. Make that one of the less complicated issues.
- Limit the number of agenda items to what can logically be covered in a reasonable time, so as not to wear people out.
Conducting the meeting:
- Facilitator asks for good-news announcements and compliments. Please don’t skip this step. Its purpose is much broader than just sharing information.
- Facilitator reminds everyone about the ground rules to talk one at a time and be respectful (or other ground rules all have agreed upon).
- Facilitator then reads the 1st agenda item and asks for the person who posted it to describe his/her concern.
- Facilitator asks another person to “Bounce Back” the concern of the speaker (put in your own words what you just heard that person say). If necessary, the facilitator can do this him-/herself, but it keeps more people actively involved if the bouncing back is passed around.
- Facilitator asks others who wish to speak or ask clarifying questions to do so, keeping balance and including all who wish to speak. (Bounce Back at times.)
- When all who wish to speak have done so, the facilitator asks for ideas to solve the concern, and reminds all that we will not evaluate or criticize any ideas yet.
- When all serious ideas have been given, evaluation begins. Facilitator asks questions such as: Which ideas seem workable? How can this idea be made better for everyone? If we were in _______’s shoes what might we want to have happen? What would happen if we tried ____________?
- When agreement is reached, the Recorder writes down the details.
- If agreement is not reached, the Facilitator summarizes the discussion, and the Recorder writes down highlights. (The concern is handled in the way it would have been without the family meeting or is delayed until a later time.)
- The next item on the agenda is discussed using the same process.
- The meeting closes with the Recorder reading out what was agreed upon at the meeting, followed by the Facilitator thanking all for their participation.
- Refreshments are served.