Back to School – A Fresh Start

If you are looking to make some improvements in your home this year, then I recommend starting family meetings. Holding regular scheduled family meetings helps build strong relationships within the family, it gives everyone an opportunity to be heard and to be a part of the decision-making process. The family meeting is a place to express opinions, establish rules, plan for fun and to recognize the good things about each member.

Holding a family meeting before the start of the school year will allow children a chance to express any concerns they might have about going back, and it gives parents the opportunity to validate their children’s feelings so that they can help them feel ready for a new start. For many families it’s the start of new bedtime and morning routines, extra-curricular activities, managing meals, chores and making time for homework. Establishing and maintaining routines are an important part of family life and they require everyone’s input for cooperation in the family.

Rudolf Dreikurs stresses the importance of routines in his book Children: The Challenge and writes that “Routine is to a child what walls are to a house; it gives boundaries and dimensions to his life. No child feels comfortable in a situation in which he doesn’t know exactly what to expect. Routine gives a feeling of security. An established routine also provides a sense of order from which freedom grows.”

Let family meetings be the new routine you introduce to your families this week! Here are the ‘essentials’ of family meetings courtesy of the STEP series -Systematic Training for Effective Parenting:

  1. Meet at a regularly scheduled time.
  2. Treat all members as equals. Let everyone be heard.
  3. Use reflective listening and I-messages to encourage members to express their feelings and beliefs clearly.
  4. Pinpoint the real issues. Avoid being side-tracked with other issues.
  5. Encourage members by recognizing the good things happening in the family.
  6. Remember to plan for family fun and recreation.
  7. Agree upon the length of the meeting and hold to the limits established.
  8. Record plans and decisions made. Post the record as a reminder.

In the book The Effective Parent, they provide an activity where they suggest you take up the issue of stress at a family meeting and ask everyone, “What are some of the major stresses in the family and what can we do to reduce these stresses.” Then after some discussion, explore some alternatives and problem-solve together. “The secret of the success of the Family Council lies in the willingness of all members of the family to approach a problem as being a family problem.”

You can learn more about the components of a family meeting in many of the popular parenting books, such as: Jane Nelsen’s Positive Discipline; Dinkmeyer & McKay’s The Parent’s Handbook and Rudolf Dreikurs Children: The Challenge.

The Parent Education Network wishes your family a great start to a new school year.

By Kylah Harrington

Credit: Rudolf Dreikurs and Vicki Soltz, Children: The Challenge (New York: Hawthorn, 1964).

Credit – Don Dinkmeyer, Gary D. McKay, Don Dinkmeyer, Jr., James S. Dinkmeyer, and Joyce L. McKay, The Effective Parent (United States: AGS American Guidance Service Inc. 1987).

Credit – Don Dinkmeyer and Gary D. McKay, The Parent’s Handbook (Third Edition. United States: AGS American Guidance Service Inc. 1989).