Gen X Parents- Hold Family Meetings to Build Sib Harmony

Hold family meeting’s for your young family –to learn to be a team- to say your family rules out loud and  to have  have everyone talk about problems before they reach a crisis—to themselves, to  other siblings, and to the family unit.

Family meeting can handle disagreements with siblings and teach them several skills. Brother’s and sisters can learn the value of each other’s perspective. Siblings can learn how to negotiate and compromise through a family meeting. Siblings can individually ascertain their own worth through a family meeting. Brother and sisters can learn how to argue in a constructive way in a family meeting. Parents who moderate a family meeting can teach siblings how to control aggressive impulses in a family meeting. Parents who hold family meetings for siblings who are arguing can teach brothers and sisters the tools they need to be in charge of themselves in a family meeting and offer guidelines for communicating with each other through the rules the parents set for running the family meeting.

When family rules need to be said out loud to siblings, kids behavior or  actions need to be negotiated. A family meeting is an excellent tool for a parent. In Mom Loves You Best Forgiving and Forging Sibling Relationship we have a chapter “Break the Rules.” The difficulty with many family rules is that they are unfair and go unstated. Examples are the gender rules, favorite rules or rules that say kids had to compete for parent’s love. These rules are always silent but deadly.

A family meeting gives parents a chance to get rules out in the open and talk about family policy. These family get-togethers also give children an opportunity to discuss what they consider to be unfair and unstated rules and have the parents consider changing them in a safe forum. Family meetings with children help open lines of communication so rules are heard and siblings have less reason to fight, hurt each other, or suffer  long-term sibling wounds over rules that were never spoken, such as rules about favored genders.

Family meetings allow siblings to solve problems in a group. This is a great skill for brothers and sisters because when they reach midlife, they may have to come back together, and make plans for how to divide up care for you, their inevitably aging parent, or helping Mom move or aiding another siblings or relative. If siblings gain the skills for solving problems fairly in a group and among themselves, they will go a long way in having a model to use when they are older. Plus this will be model for parenting their own kids- your grandkids of the future. Family meetings give all siblings a way to be heard and have their opinions respected. This helps to boost each child’s self-esteem.

Parents should initiate the family meeting and be the moderators so there are boundaries and they can ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. It is important as a parental mediator that the parent be impartial throughout the family meeting.

If differences come up, allow the siblings to work it out through the Go Around exchanges with you, the mom or dad. Using Go Around the parent explains that they will hopefully able to get each sibling to talk about what is good in their family and what is difficult, which could bring up the strife between the siblings. This would allow the siblings or stepsiblings to talk openly in a setting where they would have a parent-mediator who could help everyone in this struggling remarried a blood or step clan to discuss and resolve their problems .It is important that arguments in the family meeting do not get out of control, so the mom or dad needs to moderate in a way that expressions of feelings are allowed but within control so the dialogue can take place and actual solutions can be reached. The family as a team can decide when and where to hold the meetings. Family meetings are more effective with young families if they are short, around fifteen minutes.

You can create an agenda if you want and email it to all the older kids who have computers and read it to younger kids. Parents can take minutes, or have a child take minutes by hand or on their laptops or Palms, then have that child email the minutes to all the family. Minutes should include the decisions or new rules that the family made. This is a fun way both to have kids participate and to use the technology they love. You can also post both the agenda and the minutes on the refrigerator or anyplace where all family members can see them.

The goal of a family meeting is to give everyone a voice, including children, set mutual goals for the family, and help plan changes in the family rules and routines. Family meetings don’t have to be used just for problems but can be used for positive things a family will do, such as planning a trip or a vacation, or a garage sale where all the kids will make money from their older items or donate money to the church or social cause the family may choose. They are meant to build and support the family as a whole but also each individual child.

The habit of family meetings will help your sons and daughters have a forum to work together the rest of their lives. As parents need care and assistance as they age, family meetings are one of the best tools for siblings to rally around each other and delegate tasks while they decide what to do. If you as a parent create this habit when they are kids, you are not only teaching them how the family settles disputes but how they can plan and delegate in the future. It is an insurance policy for you in your future again.

Soon my new family meeting E book will be out . Check out my website http://www.cathycress.com/ for an update to publishing.

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About momlovesyoubest

Cathy Cress holds an MSW in Aging from U.C. Berkeley. Her new book Mom Loves You Best, Forgiving and Forging Sibling Relationships , New Horizon Press, was published October 2010. Cress’s book , Handbook of Geriatric Care Management, Jones and Bartlett, is the bible of geriatric care management and is out out in a third edition in February 2011 .Her book Care Managers, Working With the Aging Family, Jones and Bartlett,2008 is one of the few major books on the aging family. Ms. Cress is the founder of GCM Consult ,working with small and national who want to add or launch GCM businesses. She is on the faculty at the University of Florida in their on line master’s in geriatric care management -GCM . She has taught geriatric care management at San Francisco State University , UC Berkeley and teaches at Cabrillo College and San Mateo College. She was founder and director of Cresscare, a GCM business, for 25 years.
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