A client recently remarked how she loves spending time with her children, but needs time for herself; she struggles to balance all the needs. She hoped that her children would be closer and play together. She lamented on how she and her spouse rush each child to soccer, piano recitals and how they take turns tucking the kids into bed. She described feeling like they are all running from task to task without really connecting.
When couples describe not having time for each other Gottman’s Magic Five Hours and Sue Johnson’s A.R.E. Conversations are interventions that guide connection. My client’s family, like many families, discusses connection as being child centered, which is vital. Parents always need to reach for towards the child to meet their child’s needs. But, I wondered what about being family centered to build attachment solidarity within the family to establish a sense of belonging. That’s when I discussed Family Meetings to create balance and bonding between all family members.
Family systems are microcosms of the larger community, in that vein, having a voice, boundaries and shared goals improves the quality of life overall. The value of shared time and activities fosters connection, and trust and a sense of belonging to something greater than oneself. This allows children to develop skills needed to understand individual and community needs. In family meetings children learn to create and participate in solutions to shared goals. We know that when children have a sense of secure attachment they have more confidence to learn and engage in new activities. Attachment solidarity allows children autonomy to complete tasks that become part of a group effort, experience and shared memories.
How to set up a monthly meeting:
1. Discuss Last month’s goal. What did each person like and learn? Validate member’s participation.
2. Create a new, shared goal, help define tasks, younger children can pair with parents and older siblings to complete tasks.
3. Use computer or pen and paper to list tasks for next goal and set a date for the activity.
Examples of family goals:
Plan a family party, a picnic, engage in social justice, pick a family book to read and discuss, Visit a farm, Prepare for a holiday, Create a garden, Cook together, etc.
Example of Family Goal and Plan
January “Family Goal” Family Book selected is Velveteen Rabbit Mom and children will reserve book from Library. Each person can read the book, or parents and older children can read it to younger children. Dad and younger children will make a dessert for the “Book Discussion on January 20th . Each person will discuss what they liked about the book, or draw a picture to describe the story.