(Most writers like the top ten approach, but I like for you to fill in the tenth!) 

Various situations in my life continue to point out the extreme importance of communication.  The worst trap of all in a stepfamily is no communication. Assumptions fill the gaps and actions are based on the assumptions!  One way a stepfamily can ensure some sort of regular communication is family meetings.  

This length of post won’t do this topic justice, so I thought I’d focus on nine practical guidelines for family meetings. 

  1. Commit to a regular frequency for family meetings, i.e. we will meet once per month, or once per week, etc.  In a highly-scheduled family, pick dates for all to get on their calendars, and provide the busiest kids frequent reminders.
  2. Pick a meeting time of day that is not over a main meal.  Make the meeting special and separate, with its own character.  Keep meal times free from discussions that can get too heavy.
  3. Decide who will facilitate each meeting.  In a stepfamily with kids from both parents, each parent should trade off facilitating the meeting.  If the kids are only from one parent, let that parent facilitate for many months until the family is comfortable with the meeting format.  Then the stepparent can trade off running the meeting.
  4. Prepare for the meeting in the form of a meeting agenda.  Ask family members to contribute agenda items ahead, or build the agenda together on a white board.
  5. Set meeting guidelines.  This can be part of the first meeting agenda.  Some useful guidelines are:  Speakers must ask for speaker’s prompt (see #6).  No interrupting the speaker. Someone will take notes at each meeting.  Meeting will not exceed one hour’s time. Decisions will be made by family vote (consider other methods if you think this will cause problems).
  6. Provide a speaker’s prompt – an object (preferably one that makes noise) that can be passed to the person who is speaking.  If someone interrupts, the speaker can simply set off the noise as a reminder that he or she is still speaking (as opposed to getting into a squabble).  Our family used a small soda can filled with about ten pennies.  It was duct-taped over the top.
  7. Allow and encourage honest communication. This will take multiple meetings and practice.  #8 will help.
  8. Make the meeting fun.  Our very first stepfamily meeting was an ice-cream sundae bar and it was a big hit.  Not all the meetings have to incorporate a big event, but you do want your kids to look forward to the meetings.
  9. Follow up on action items.  There is nothing more discouraging than baring your soul at a family meeting only to see that no one is behaving any differently.
  10. Your turn!  What ideas do you have for your family meetings? 

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a writer, parent, and stepparent located in Northern Colorado.  For more information on her book, Stepparenting the Grieving Child, go to www.dianefromme.com


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2 Comments on Nine Tips for Family Meetings

  1. […] is so very important in families – all kinds of families.  This is why I blogged about family meetings last […]

  2. […] a family meeting (barbeque and/or ice-cream-sundae bar?) to set summer expectations and boundaries. There will […]

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