Have you ever asked your kids about their day at school and get this answer, “fine.”? Or ask what they learned and they say, “I don’t know. I forgot.” Or try to have any conversation with them at any time and it’s like pulling teeth? Or is your family more apt to talk over one another while everyone shares, and sometimes shouts, to get their point across? Family communication can be a difficult thing to navigate, but with some simple strategies and an hour of sacred time, your family can not only improve their communication, but their heart connection also. Here’s how: Family Meetings.
A family meeting is designed to help families spend targeted and intentional quality time together while improving communication, and especially what I call “emotional communication”. During this hour, our goal is to help each member of the family feel heard, supported and an important part of the family unit. The time is considered a sacred time also, as no interruptions are allowed to interfere with this time, if possible. (ie: make sure all phones are off and everyone makes a visit to the restroom beforehand). Make sure everyone knows the day and time of the meeting in advance and that there is an expectation that everyone is present and actively participate. These can be scheduled once a week or once a month, or whenever needed.
Each member of the family will take turns being the facilitator of the meeting each time one is scheduled. The facilitator reminds the family of the rules of the meeting (no distractions interruptions, arguing, or leaving) and will open and close the meeting with some short and simple exercise that brings joy and connection. Some good examples are: shaking hands hugging each member, giving high fives, everyone telling a joke, saying a prayer, reading an inspiring poem.
Every family should create a meeting that suits their needs based on time, age of children, level of conflict, etc. The following are recommended exercises to consider:
HIGHS AND LOWS – Have each family member go around the room and share their “high” for the week and their “low” for the week. A “high” is something really positive that happened, whereas a “low” is something negative. For example, a high could be passing the exam to get a driver’s license and a low would be not making the football team.
IDENTIFYING AND SHARING EMOTIONS – Have each family member share how they felt each primary emotion in the past week. Primary emotions are: anger, pain, fear, guilt, shame, loneliness and joy. For example, “I felt anger when _______”, or , “I felt joy when_______”.
CONFRONTATIONS – Most people consider the word, “confrontation”, as a negative word that means “to fight”. In our example, we are loving the members in our family so well that she “confront” them by sharing how they affected us this past week. Our desire should be to communicate in such a way that the other person hears our point of view, even if they disagree. The following is the format to use:
When _____________________________ (describe the event) When you left a towel on the floor in the bathroom
I think_____________________________ (describe what your opinion or thought) I think that was lazy
I feel _____________________________ (describe an emotion or emotions felt) I feel or felt angry and sad
I would need or like _________________ (describe what you want) I would like for you to put the towel in the hamper or hang it up
I intend to ________________________ (describe your part of the solution) And I intend to only do the laundry that makes it into the hamper
Once a confrontation is given, the recipient simply says, “Thank you” to acknowledge that they appreciate what was shared. Then they will begin to repeat what they heard. It doesn’t have to be verbatim, however, it does help to follow the outline to be sure all points were heard and validated as being heard. If needed, the speaker can repeat the confrontation as needed until they are satisfied that their confrontation was heard correctly. It is helpful to start the reflective listening by saying, “I heard you say……did I miss anything?”
FORGIVENESS EXERCISE – Whether you are confronted about something or not, you can use this next exercise to ask someone to forgive a regret. Most people will say, “I am sorry.” This is stating a fact but it doesn’t communicate why you are sorry or that you are wanting reconciliation. Try this instead: “Will you forgive me for_________________?” Three basic replies are suggested: 1) Yes, I forgive you 2) I am working on it or 3) Not at this time.
FAMILY BUSINESS – Sometimes it is helpful to add a time of communicating about practical family matters or schedules that need to be coordinated.
End the family meeting on a positive note with a closing option as mentioned earlier. If you are not usually an affectionate family, I encourage handshakes or high-fives or even hugs to stretch yourselves. I also encourage verbal expressions of love and my favorite is this: “I love you because ________________”. Let the most important people in your life know how you feel about them. Now go and invest in yourself and in your family!!