AMES, Iowa -- As August arrives, families begin to think about “back to school” routines. Barbara Dunn Swanson, an Iowa State University Extension and Outreach human sciences specialist, suggests making family meetings a routine all year long.
Weekly family meetings can help busy families keep communication lines open, said Swanson, who specializes in family life issues.
“As children get older, their schedules get more complicated. They juggle school, sports, afterschool activities and sometimes a part time job," Swanson said. "Both children and parents benefit from family meetings where they can review all their schedules and reflect on their school or work successes."
Schedule the family meeting at a time when all family members are available and not tired or otherwise distracted. Keep the meeting brief and begin with family compliments or praise for each and every member of the family. Celebrating family successes is important for building continued self-confidence, Swanson said.
The family meeting also is a place to learn problem solving skills. According to Swanson, problem solving is a protective factor that can be an asset in school or work settings. Listening, taking turns talking and sharing and hearing other family members’ opinions are additional benefits of planned family meetings.
“If your family members seem to be arguing or having trouble following household rules, your family meeting can be a time to review the rules and talk about how you all can hold each other accountable for complying,” Swanson said.
Delegating household chores is an ongoing need for keeping a clean home, the extension specialist said.
“During a family meeting, divide household chores among family members. Make a job chart so your children know they will have an opportunity to switch duties from time to time,” Swanson said.
Family meetings also are a time to plan for fun, Swanson continued.
“Spend some time discussing everyone’s ideas for spending quality time together. Take turns letting each person select an activity. If a suggested activity has a financial cost, discuss the family budget and make a group decision based on your family finances,” she said.
“Use the month of August to schedule your weekly family meetings and begin this new school year with success and open communication,” Swanson said.