Good communication skills for families in lockdown

Family life can feel very intense at the moment with all the family at home all the time. Little niggles could become big irritations. So it might be good to start having family meetings – not to tackle any major problems but just to improve communication within the family and help everyone to be positive and solution focused. Here are some tips from the Centre for Parenting Education on holding family meetings.

What is a Family Meeting?

You may have heard people talk about holding family meetings and wondered what they were or why families would schedule formal times to meet and talk. At first glance, it may appear to be unnecessary.

However, after considering the fast-paced and hectic lives that many families lead, the benefits of being more intentional about finding time to connect becomes evident.

Family meetings are discussions that involve all family members who are concerned about or affected by a particular issue. Often the topic relates to a problem that the family is experiencing, although family meetings can also be used to plan time together or to try to prevent problems from occurring.

These meetings provide a time that members can focus on being a family.

The Benefits/Purpose of Family Meetings

family togetherness family meetings

  • Because family meetings give everyone a voice, they build children’s self-esteem. The children are treated like valued members of the family whose ideas are listened to and considered.
  • Children learn that family members are interdependent, that they are all connected, and what each person does can have an effect on everyone else.
  • The skills children learn in family meetings, such as compromise, openness to other’s ideas and cooperation, will help them to deal effectively with problems they encounter in other situations and social settings.
  • The family becomes more cohesive and family closeness increases because children are then more likely to identify with the family. By involvement in family decision-making and solving family problems, children see themselves as having responsibility for making a good family life.
  • By participating in family meetings, children learn to take the perspective of the whole group and to think of what is good for the family as a whole, not just themselves.
  • Family meetings counterbalance the hectic lives that today’s parents and children lead; the technological distractions of the computer and video games, the extra-curricular activities, school and work pressures all pull family members in different directions.

    Family meetings serve as a centrifugal force that grounds families and encourages connections and identity. They can send a message that family time is important and is a priority in your family.

  • Family meetings provide a platform for conflicts to be addressed and for problems to be resolved in a way that feels fair to everyone. You as the parent will set the limits of what is acceptable, but everyone has input.

    Children learn to examine situations, propose solutions, evaluate results with guidance, support and demonstrations from you and their older siblings. They begin to see themselves as capable of finding solutions to problems.

  • Family meetings provide the opportunity for information to be shared equally with everyone

 

Forms of Family Meetings

Family meetings can take the form of one-time events or they may be held on a more regular basis. If your family meets regularly, your role initially will be to provide nonjudgmental leadership. Over time you may decide to rotate leadership. Invite everyone in the family who is concerned about or affected by a particular issue to participate.

 

Setting a Positive Tone

family talking togetherFamily meetings are most effective and enthusiastically received if they do not occur only to handle crises or to distribute jobs and discipline. Other purposes may be to:

  • plan weekly schedules/calendars so everyone knows what each person will need to do and what commitments have been made.
  • share information that will effect family members.
  • have fun together.
  • make family decisions about vacations, recreation or other activities.

To add to a constructive atmosphere, you can:

  • include refreshments.
  • include an opening activity that highlights positive family events or achievements or affirms individual family members. Example – best thing I did today, trait I like about myself, (or about someone else in family)
  • set an agenda so that everyone knows what will be discussed.
  • establish ground rules, such as:
    • no interruptions
    • no put downs
    • everyone is listened to
    • respect each other’s opinions
    • everyone has a chance to contribute/

 

How To’s of Family Meetings

You may want to have a more formal arrangement to your family meetings no matter what the focus. If the purpose of the meeting is to discuss a specific problem, it is helpful to use the following prescribed steps:

  • Decide who is involved.
    Tell them which issue you would like to discuss and why.
  • Each person states his perspective and viewpoint about the problem.
    This is done without interruption and without judgment. By going around the table, each person is given the opportunity to speak and the parents are prevented from doing all the talking.
  • Ask each person for suggestions to solve the problem, again with no interruptions.
  • Write down the suggestions.
    Discuss the proposals and consider their feasibility until all agree on solutions that seem fair to everyone.
  • Develop a plan of action.
    Make a list of who will do what and when. You can even have everyone sign the agreement to give a sense of importance to the process. You can post this agreement as a reminder.
  • At the end of the session, set a time for a follow up meeting to evaluate how your plan is working.
  • Have a follow up meeting.
    During this meeting, you can create a positive perspective by recognizing progress even if adjustments need to be made.

Some Additional Tips for Success

  • Value everyone’s input.
  • Treat all members as equals.
  • Listen to everyone and encourage each other.
  • Avoid letting one person dominate who might think he has more rights than other members.
  • Keep the family meeting short – with young children, the meeting should be no longer than 15 minutes.

Over time, as your children see that they are respected and listened to, they will begin to appreciate the value of family meetings. You may even find them requesting family meetings when they have issues they want the family to address.

You can find more tips and resources  from the Center for Parenting Education here https://centerforparentingeducation.org/

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Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.

 

The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books (www.mychild.ie/books) and also on www.MyChild.ie  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.

 

In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  

 

Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  

 

In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the www.mychild.ie website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at www.mychild.ie

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from healthy.childhood@hse.ie

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