A blended family means blended parenting styles, rules, and expectations. It is a stop of the old family’s way and a start to a new family way. Except – an on and off switch only works for robots. We are humans.
Prior to getting married eight months ago, my husband and I committed to respect and incorporate each other’s parenting styles and house rules in an effort to help our kiddos ages 14, 13, 9 and 7 adjust to our new family structure. We decided that the best way to discuss our new rules and communicate was a family meeting.
We have biweekly family meetings to connect, collaborate, and celebrate. We have emergency family meetings to communicate important news, provide clarity to family expectations, and resolve conflicts. It has been an effective way to build the foundation of our new family and offer opportunities for transparent communication for all six of us.
Here are five quick tips for helping establish and lead effective family meetings.
Tip 1: Pick a day and time.
Our biweekly family meetings take place on Sunday evenings after dinner. It is a time when everyone is winding down and preparing for the week ahead. We maximize our time together by having fun quality time after the meeting is over. Our meeting is on the family calendar in the kitchen as a reminder of our protected time together.
Tip 2: Make simple ground rules.
We want the family meeting to be a safe place where everyone has a voice. We expect everyone to be respectful and to treat each other the way that they want to be treated. We strive toward reconciliation and forgiveness in all conflicts. Those are our three rules for behavior at family meetings.
When conflict arises that involves all of us, we call an emergency family meeting. We ask each person to tell their side of the story to others who are involved. Parents serve as the mediator and counselor, if needed to help the kiddos. We hope to teach them the critical life skills of conflict resolution and increase their emotional intelligence necessary to build healthy, long-lasting relationships. If we can achieve it in our home, then we hope it will help them at school, jobs and wherever life takes them in the years ahead.
Step 3: Have an agenda.
For our biweekly meeting, we follow a five-part agenda that includes:
- family happenings,
- praises and opportunities to improve as a family,
- open discussion from the kiddos’ perspectives,
- discussion question to get to know each other in a deeper way, and
- a closing prayer.
Prior to the meeting, my husband and I will agree on the agenda and discuss any differing opinions or perspectives between us. As single parents, he led his home one way and I led my home one way. Our biological kiddos formed habits and behaviors to obey. Now, we lead one home together. We must unite as the leaders of our homes and the parents of the blended kiddos. We must build clarity and consistency in our new family to adjust habits and behaviors of our kiddos.
Step 4: Alternate as the meeting leader.
We take turns facilitating the meeting. I’m the cheesy and mushy leader. He is the stick with the facts leader. This allows both of us to be seen as a respected leader in our home while giving variety to the meeting vibe.
Step 5: Don’t give up.
The first meetings were awkward with simple head nods and short answers when asked a direct questions. It was pretty one-sided with lots of parent talking. Now, several months later, the kiddos actively participate and have a comfort in the discussions. It also has been an effective way to resolve conflicts and quickly restore peace and laughter after a disagreement between the kiddos.