From Elaine Hightowers and Betsy Riley
Authors of "Our Family Meeting Book"
1. Establish ground rules. For example: Everyone gets a turn to talk without being interrupted. No TV, music, phone calls, toys or hand-held video games during the meeting. Unless conflicts are unavoidable, all family members must be present (including teen-agers).
2. Have your meetings at the same time every week. This helps family meetings become a habit and makes them easier to schedule. We find Sunday nights work best.
3. Don't hesitate to call an emergency meeting. When a crisis strikes, don't wait until your regularly scheduled date.
4. Don't drag out meetings unnecessarily. Fifteen minutes may be enough. But be flexible and follow your family's lead --- some weeks may require more or less time.
5. Review last week's goals. Did you accomplish the goals you set last week? If not, what got in the way? What will you do to prevent roadblocks going forward?
6. Give everyone a chance to participate. Go around the table and ask for everyone's input, even the youngest child's. Start with the children so they're not unduly influenced by adult opinions.
7. Allow the kids to moderate. Once your family meetings are well established, let everyone, even the kids, take turns leading the meeting.
8. Parents/guardians retain authority. Although family meetings give children an opportunity to voice their opinions, final policy rulings are made by the parent or guardian.
9. Include fun activities. Try playing a game, telling a joke, creating something, sharing a story, singing a song.
10. Conclude by holding hands. Whether you yell a cheer, read an inspirational quotation, sing a song, say a prayer or simply say what you're grateful for, take a moment to express family solidarity.
(Adapted from "Our Family Meeting Book," by Elaine Hightower and Betsy Riley. Used with permission from Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, Minn.; www.freespirit.com. All rights reserved.)