Wow, what a year it’s been! The pandemic brought our culture to a crashing halt and society is just starting to come out of a long hibernation. Although the economic shutdown of 2020 was painful at times, the silver lining was that the frantic pace of modern life slowed. Families began eating dinner together again. Kids and parents played games and shared workspaces. People took the time to talk on the phone or to video chat. As the economy ramps back up, families can keep the camaraderie going by scheduling a weekly family meeting.
Families can borrow from basic business knowledge here: Successful organizations don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan. Once your family meeting is on the calendar, treat this as sacred time. If someone outside of the family group wants to meet with you or demands your time, it is perfectly acceptable (and true!) to say, “I already have a meeting scheduled then.”
Family meetings give all members a chance to get everyone else up to speed on their lives. Maybe your kids have taken up a new interest or want to join a club at school. Your spouse might be starting a big project at work. When we slow down and really listen to the people we care about, we are often surprised at how much they have to share. Family meetings are a time for listening and appreciating the people you spend time with every day.
Humans are social beings by nature. Interaction and continued connection with others of our species was critical to forming societies and remains an essential factor in the human life experience. Put simply: We need each other. The benefit of connection exists at multiple levels, from worldwide cooperation to community involvement to family dynamics. In a 2020 article in Psychology Today, Glenn C. Altschuler, Ph.D., discusses research indicating that a range of social connectivity is “conducive to physical as well as mental health.” According to Dr. Altschuler’s review, the involvement of older individuals in social happenings (or lack thereof) is a legitimate public health concern. So, invite Grandma and Grandpa to the meeting, even if Zoom is the only option. All generations are likely to benefit from the shared time.
Some decisions simply must be made from the top-down. Parents set parameters that kids and teens must follow for their own wellness. For example, Mom and Dad create the budget for the family and have final say on major purchases. However, some decisions benefit from collaboration or at least discussion before the decision is made. Family members are more likely to buy-in and stick to a plan when they have an understanding of why things happen. Plus, older children may have insights that benefit the group.
A family meeting doesn’t have to be all business. Include a talent show segment. Take pictures. Plan the meals and grocery list for the week. Argue about current events and hug it out afterwards. This is your time together and time has a history of turning today into yesterday. Consistency is key in forming memories. Italian novelist Cesare Paviste summarized this truth when he said, “We do not remember days. We remember moments.”
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