During a recent support group session, I met with a grandparent who expressed having trouble with her grandchildren. “They act like I’m the enemy when I’m the one who rescued them from all that mess”. A deeper understanding of her problem started with the children not feeling heard or listened to. As we talked for nearly an hour after the group, we concluded that her children wanted to have a voice because their lives had been dictated by so many other people. “Family meetings,” I explained, “may be a first step in creating an environment in which each person in the house has a chance to voice their ideas and concerns. Like many relatives as parents, this grandmother loved her children but was not used to thinking of them as equal players in the game of making decisions. However, giving a child a voice can help them feel empowered, respected, and in control of their own behaviors.
Family meetings are one positive way of achieving this goal, and in many instances, help to solve the behavioral and emotional problems children display at home and elsewhere. By definition, a family meeting is a process whereby each member of the family comes together to discuss an issue that affects the familial unit. It is a great opportunity for members to bring up concerns and conflicts in a supportive setting, without feeling that their concerns will be ignored or used against them. Involving children as young as three years of age, these meetings can help children feel bonded to their caregivers.
When setting up a family meeting, it is very important to keep a few things in mind.
Whether discussing a concern of the parent/caregiver or an issue that the children have about the parent, it is important to first determine the purpose of the meeting. Make it clear to everyone that you are meeting to talk about things relevant to the household.
Remember to set rules from the very beginning. One of the most important ones is to respect everyone’s opinion and viewpoint. Additionally, guarantee them that whatever is said will not be held or used against them. Children need to be reassured that this is a safe time and place to share their thoughts. Because feelings are never wrong, whatever they say must be respected.
As the parent/caregiver, try to begin each meeting with a positive comment about the other family members.
Write down things discussed to refer to in future meetings.
Do not try to resolve one person’s problems in a family meeting. They are not family therapy
sessions. Use them to share thoughts and feelings. Seek out a therapist for this issue.
Most important, keep it fun and use the time to enjoy and learn from one another.
In order to raise children to feel good about themselves, they must be made to feel valued and important. Family meetings are one way of achieving this goal. To learn more about these activities, feel free to contact staff at The Boyhood Initiative of Missouri at (314) 882-6840.
Huey Hawkins, Jr., MSW, LCSW, CCCE
Kimble Cares Relatives As Parents
The Boyhood Initiative of Missouri
(314) 882-6840 or
Erika Webb 314-882-6820
Reprinted with the permission of the University of Missouri. © 2008 — Curators of the University of Missouri
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