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Family Meeting- 20 minutes a week can save your sanity - Anna Rosenblum Palmer
Every Monday evening we clear our dishes and sit around our rough barn wood table to dish with each other. The four of us have been having family meetings (almost) weekly for 9 years. We have stuck with the schedule Danny Devito style on trains, planes and automobiles. We have skyped and face-timed. We have cried tears of joy and frustration. Despite wriggling and whining (mine), somber promises (Oliver), threats of incarceration (Steve), and a monotone mutter (Leo) we make it to the table. And everyone benefits. Like so many of our family rituals this one has strong roots in the classes we took with Vicki Hoefle. Like all of them we have put our own spin on it. Before we begin we clear the table to eliminate distractions. We keep the meeting to 20 minutes or less. We have a notebook and pen for brainstorming solutions for problems. We lay out the money the boys will receive ($1 per year of life as a reminder of the privilege they will unlock if they fulfill their responsibility of participating in the meeting. Then we follow 4 (almost) easy steps. Appreciations– We each appreciate every other family members, and ourselves. These often take the form of memories from the week. “Dada, I appreciated when you played kickball with me, I love it when we spend time outside together.” “Oliver, I appreciate the creativity you used making the guest bed with every pillow in the house.” “Mama, I appreciate how you snuggled me even when you are tired.” “Steve, I appreciate how you recognized that I was feeling down even before I did and helped me talk through my stress.” Challenges: The hardest appreciations are the ones we offer ourselves. After chirping out compliments for family members there is a lot of muttering…the boys chime in to help…but this is something we all need to practice. Benefits: The ease with which we all express gratitude grows with practice. I hear the boys appreciating each other, the cat, and the way a stranger smiles at them at many times throughout the week. As someone who spent most of my life with my vodka more than half empty I have found myself noticing and remarking on the positives all around me. Problem Solving– For many years we had a white board where family members could write their problems. In all but the most critical situation this allowed us to move on from small transgressions without the “wronged” party feeling ignored. All problems matter…they just don’t all matter RIGHT NOW. When it is time for problem solving we select one from the list. We present our problems with no name and no blame. A common problem sounds like: “I have a problem when our time at the computer isn’t divided fairly.” It seems that between the time the grievance was aired and our meeting Monday evening many things have solved themselves. That in itself is a valuable lesson, and a major time saver. Next we brainstorm solutions. If parents participate ...