If you've got an important topic to discuss with your household, a family meeting is the perfect way to involve everyone and reinforce bonds. Consider your family's interests, schedules, and comfort levels before planning the meeting so you have the best chance of success.
Choose a Comfortable Location
Family meetings often get a bad reputation, so start yours out on a positive note by choosing the perfect location where everyone will be comfortable.
Type of Atmosphere
If you've got family members who are shy or typically avoid large social situations, host the meeting at home. On the other hand, if your family tends to be more open and talkative out in public, pick a spot you can multi-task without too much distraction like the park or a restaurant.
Make it as easy as possible for all family members to join the meeting by hosting it somewhere equidistant to everyone. For families with younger kids this will typically be at home. But, you can get creative with your meeting spot and hold it in the backyard, on the front porch, or in the kids' tree house.
Size of Venue
Make sure your location includes enough space and comfortable seating for each family member. The more relaxed and secure everyone is, the more likely they'll be willing to participate.
Invite Your Family
Give everyone fair warning so they can mentally prepare and be transparent about your specific topic or reason for calling the meeting. This eliminates any anxiety created by the unknown.
Start a Poll
Involving everyone from the start makes them feel respected and heard before your meeting even begins. Create a Facebook poll or similar poll with three to four potential meeting times. Choose what works best for the most people.
Make Formal Invitations
Formal invites give the meeting more clout. Buy some blank invitations and add in your details or get creative with DIY invitations. Send them via email or snail mail or slide them under everyone's bedroom doors to make each person feel special and wanted.
Hang Meeting Posters Around the House
Start hyping up the meeting by hanging flyers or homemade posters around the house announcing the meeting. Use a theme to give the event a light-hearted feel such as:
- Mock campaign: If you're making a big decision like moving or changing jobs and want the family's input start a "Your Vote Counts" campaign.
- Carnival: Go with the old saying that your family's a circus and hand out front row tickets and popcorn vouchers.
- Board of Directors: Type out invitations on corporate family letterhead or give out nametags like it's a conference.
Even serious topics are easier to discuss when they're approached with a hint of fun. Think outside the sitting in a circle talking method and try icebreaker questions or talk during family night activities. Make sure to include special snacks and drinks to keep everyone in the room.
Commercial Conversations Game
If your family has a favorite TV show or can watch a movie on TV, you can take advantage of the commercial breaks as conversational moments. Before the show starts, explain the rules that everyone must spend each commercial break talking about the designated topic.
Pass the Object
Pick an object from your home that would seem ridiculous to hold during a meeting, like a roll of toilet paper, diaper, or full pop bottle. Only the person holding the object at any given time can talk. Pass the object around and get ready to laugh as you say things like "Be quiet, Jon's got the diaper!"
Heads Up Game
Gauge interest on certain decisions or garner blind votes by using the classic kids' game Heads Up, Seven Up. Ask yes or no questions or other questions with only two answers. Have everyone respond with a thumb's up or thumb's down while their eyes are closed and their head is down.
Award Participation Points and Prizes
Encourage conversation and get them engaged with some friendly competition by awarding points and prizes.
- Draw a chart on a dry erase or chalk board and keep a tally of how many times each person talks without being prompted.
- Keep a giant bag of candies, like M & M's, in the middle of the group and give each person a cup or jar. When someone contributes to the conversation, they put a candy in their jar. Everyone keeps their own candies, but the person with the most gets the rest of the bag too.
- Treat the whole group to a special meal or outing after the meeting when everyone participates and acts respectfully.
Give New Meaning to Meetings
Meetings don't have to be boring or painful. Make your family meetings memorable in a good way by incorporating creative techniques into your tough conversations.