Updated: Feb 27, 2022
I remember, looking down at my watch to see it is 4:00 pm already, and wondering why I haven’t heard from my husband yet. We still haven’t figured out who was taking Bella to soccer practice and who was taking Liam to taekwondo. Honestly, I didn’t care which one I was running to do, but I started to get irritated thinking did he even remember he needed to help tonight? As I waited for his call, I scoured the fridge wondering what was I going to make for dinner. I had 20 minutes before the kids were off the bus to figure everything out before my nerves were shot. I’d like to think this was a unique situation, but it happened way too often.
Since a mom’s to-do list can be never-ending: coordinating the schedules of the kids and how to get them there, planning meals for the family and making sure to present it right to the kids so they eat, keeping the house organized, stocked with groceries, and clean clothes. For a long time, all these tasks fell upon my shoulders just as they might fall upon YOUR shoulders now. All the while I’d be comparing myself to the perfect moms around me who always seemed so together. As I write this, I think of the butterfly formation in Mitchell’s vs the Machines, with my family being the Mitchells. (Click here if you want to see the butterfly formation in action.) I started to question and wonder how do we work towards being a family that is on the same page?
I learned a good place to start getting your family on the same page is by holding a family meeting. The word meeting has many negative connotations attached to it, but it’s also a place where ideas are shared and plans are made. These discussions can help to shape the upcoming week, get all family members on the same page, and provide a safe place to have important conversations.
Before I learned about family meetings, I struggled to figure our day out on the fly. I often felt overwhelmed and frustrated, and a weeklong plan felt like a dream. After I discovered The Miracle Morning for Parents and Families, co-authored by Lindsay McCarthy, I found hope. It was through the book, the family playbook, and her Facebook group that I was able to learn more about how to start my own family meeting.
Therefore, I partnered with Lindsay to summarize this information, giving ideas on how to start and create one that works for your family. I broke down the information into five different questions which are summarized below and further explained in each video clip.
Question #1: What is a family meeting?
The true purpose of a family meeting is to provide a safe, consistent space for your family to share ideas and intentionally plan out your life together. It is a protected time where everyone can come together to discuss important issues and voice each other opinions and take a load off the Mom’s Shoulders.
The main reason is to bring everyone together and talk about important things, but it can look very different for every family. Lindsay’s family meeting includes showering each other with gratitude, schedule, goals so everyone knows what they are working on. My family did add showering with gratitude (Start with one person and everyone says one thing they are specifically grateful for this past week) and that really helped to change the mood of the meeting, but other focuses include meal planning, groceries, schedule, vacation planning, and a family goal. At the present time gratitude is replacing talking about highs and lows for the week.
Before getting to actually steps, one of the first key points Lindsay shares is choosing a new name for your family meeting to help own it and take some of the negative connotations away from it. Lindsay’s family named it the Family Dream Session because their goal is to lay out their dreams, plan them, and live them. As Lindsay was explaining this, I realized we still haven’t renamed ours and it is something we started to discuss. Some ideas include Family Connection, Family Planning, Everyone Has a Say, but would love for you to comment down below ideas that you have.
Question #2: What are the steps to set up your family meeting?
Family meetings determine what your family needs to focus on removing some of the overwhelm. Lindsay’s family created family values to focus on and comment throughout the week on who is living these values making them become real. My family created expectations that can be used to help remind them throughout the week. Here are the steps to get started and each person could journal ideas, simply discuss, or have a notetaker.
Steps coming directly from The Morning Miracle for Parents and Families Playbook
Generate ideas: names, ideas for agenda, how often
Share Those Ideas
Discuss & Negotiate Ideas down into something workable
Write up an Agenda
Close the meeting with something fun
Lindsay: all hands in and shout out McCarthys
Tips to help generate ideas
Creating Family expectations and/or Values
What went well in the week/ Didn’t go well
Family Goal (degrees of kindness: recognize, show, use kind words) and/or Individual Goals (Hard & Fun)
Question #3: How to Implement a family meeting?
To be successful, the most important aspect is committing to and protecting the time for the meeting. The more consistent the parents are, the more this becomes a habit, the easier it will get. Every new venture takes an adjustment period. In order to get started just set a meeting time to help everyone get on the same page. Once you start doing them, remember to make sure to set the next meeting date at the end of the meeting.
Get your kids to the table by providing snacks, bringing fidgets, and/or having a toy bin just for the meeting such as coloring books, drawing, crayons, markers, putty, playdough. Think about things the kids could do with their hands while still listening. The more fun you can make it, the easier it will be. Do not let excuses get in the way of taking the time to talk as a family, be creative and find a solution. For example, if you are traveling, adjust the meeting time to take advantage of your car ride together. Also, play with the time of day to see what works for you. I tried after a meal but kids had already been sitting for too long making it even harder to have their attention and focus.
Ideas to help
Keep a notebook to take notes for each meeting
A wall calendar for everyone to see can be updated at the meeting
Hot lunch schedule if your kids have one to see if they want it
Use a whiteboard and leave up with people goals for younger kids, older kids could have their own notebook: keep goals, high points
Decide how many meals you need to cook, get food suggestions, and add items that are needed directly to the shopping list
Question #4: How to figure out what works for you?
Lindsay often gets the question how young is too young to start? Even as babies, the little one can be at the table and start to watch the process. This is when the toy bin or snacks come in handy as it’s about creating a habit as a family to have time for communication. The earlier you can help create that habit the easier it will be as they teenagers, you will already have a built-in checkpoint with them.
We admit it will be a struggle to start this process, but as the parents make it a priority and keep at it. The kids will learn this is a place where they can give input, if they aren’t there then they lose their say. And you can tell them that you will plan their life for them. It’s going to take time, but it will be worth it.
Lindsay has been doing these meetings for about 5 years. In her first meeting, they talked about what we want to do at this meeting, how often, what to call it, what should be on the agenda. Her family’s agenda starts with gratitude, discuss high points for the week help to focus on the positive and stay in memory, recite family values, review our goals: hard goal & a fun goal break down by steps, schedule to get on the same page, open-ended what else do we need to cover: summer vacation to give kids a voice, resolve issues, and her kids can bring up what they want. They created a safe space so the kids also have a voice.
As I’m writing this blog, my husband and I are discussing ways to streamline our meeting. We had been doing high and low points of the week, but gratitude seemed to light up the kids. We are trying to make them shorter to keep their interest right now. Right now, our agenda starts with a shower of gratitude, family expectations, family goal expanding kindness each meeting (kindness: recognize kindness, show kindness, use kind words), scheduling, food list, food request, and items needed to be added to Alexa’s shopping list.
Question #5: Can I stop to make adjustments as needed?
The meetings will get shorter over time as you figure out what works for your family. Also, as you model the behavior you want from your kids, they learn how to share their wants and needs with the family. Trust us, as it becomes a habit for the family it will get easier. When the kids are little, toys and fidgets might help to keep their hands busy, but keep them engaged in the conversation. As they get older having the meeting in the car might be easier or even on a family walk.
Another adjustment to make the meetings work better, make them relevant to the lessons you want you’re your kids to learn. Lindsay wanted her kids to have a sense of money, and so, as the kids got older she adjusted to having them use balance sheets to keep track of their allowance and discuss what they’d want to buy with their money. My family is struggling with gratitude taking so long because we were going around the table having each person say what they were grateful for that person for the week and everyone pauses to think. My husband and I came up with the idea of using an hourglass timer to focus on that person and let people say ideas so they can feed off of each other about that person since our kids seem to have about a 36-hour recollection and need help prompting for earlier in the week.
It is important to have flexibility in a structure. For instance, this week we had COVID and so having a family meeting about scheduling didn’t seem relevant. However, Bella suggested having the shower of gratitude, since we could use a little lift and not skip the meeting altogether. Lindsay’s dog had passed on a day when a family dream session was scheduled, and they considered skipping it. But instead, they used the agenda to tell how they were grateful for their dog and ended up sharing so many stories about the dog, and it was a connection point for the family.
The more consistent you are the easier it will get. Parents need to get on the same page and present a united front at the meeting, which is where the agenda comes in handy. These meetings allow you to be the parent with the questions to make the family work together and the kids also express their ideas instead of feeling like you have to be the parent with all the answers.
Comment below: With your ideas to name your family meeting and/or what ideas do you have to make it work for your family?