University of Illinois Extension

Family Meetings Foster Good Communication

Janice McCoy, Family Life Educator

Does your family seem to be running in different directions all the time? Do you feel as if you never have enough time to talk with or have fun with your grandchildren? Then, family meetings might be just the answer for you.

Lack of effective communication is one of the major symptoms of troubled families. Family meetings can help to improve family communication by discussing problems and making an effort to resolve them while they still seem small. In addition, family members are able to share positive experiences, learn more about each other and have fun as a family unit.

Just what is a family meeting? It is a prearranged time that a family has agreed to spend together to talk about what's happening in their lives. Family meetings might be rather structured in the beginning, until family members get used to the idea. Meetings can be moderated by just about any family member. Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Hold family meetings on a regular basis. Once a week is great for most families, but may seem too big a task in the beginning. The key is that the family decides when and where to hold the meetings. Decide the length of the meeting in advance; if you have young grandchildren, keep the meetings short.
  • Don't force anyone to attend. If one person in the family chooses not to participate, don't force the issue. Eventually, that person will see that everyone else is enjoying the meeting and will probably choose to join the fun.
  • Make time for family members to share their joys as well as their problems and concerns. If gripes are the only thing discussed during meetings, people will soon lose interest and not attend.
  • Be sure to include fun activities for the whole family. Perhaps a bike ride, a walk in the park, or a trip for an ice cream cone would be a good idea. Be sure that everyone has input or that you take turns doing things that each family member enjoys.
  • Whenever possible, reach decisions by consensus where all family members are in agreement. This method of decision-making helps everyone feel like they have had input and are thus more likely to abide by the decision.