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Family meetings with teens: It's not too late to start!

It’s Not Too Late To Start Having Family Meetings

When my kids were young, we had weekly family meetings. We’re not a highly structured family, but we were consistent with those meetings for many years. We would use the time to talk about issues that came up during the week: “Maggie keeps playing with my dolls”, “Jake breaks the crayons”, and sometimes more serious stuff like, “I don’t want to move to a new house.” We planned favorite dinners, weekend outings and family vacations. It was a place to talk about all of it. Back then, there was absolutely no resistance to the family meetings.

When my little kids became teens, life was busier. Our family meetings became monthly, and then quarterly and then petered out altogether. I hear this same story from many parents I work with. They may have used family meetings when kids were young, but it was rare to hear that parents of teens were continuing to have “successful” regular family meetings.

I thought, well, maybe family meetings are just not that realistic or helpful for parents of these bigger kids. Yet I noticed that the few families I knew or worked with, who did continue to have family meetings into the teen years, were finding that they were REALLY helpful.

Here are a few reasons why family meetings can be important and valuable for teens:

o Petty issues can pile up at any age, but teens have a knack for hanging on to perceived slights and unfair treatment. When your teen knows he has a safe space at family meetings to express frustrations and aggravations, he can get through the time between meetings more easily.

§ Creating time to connect: Your life and your teen’s life can get busy. A scheduled family meeting guarantees a time to slow down and connect. In the midst of this pandemic, you and your teen may be spending more time in the same house but not regularly stepping away from school, work, Netflix, or Instagram, to connect with each other in an "I hear you, I see you" kind of way.

§ Getting issues on the agenda reduces tension between meetings. Instead of ignoring your teen’s complaints during the week,or offering instant and often unsatisfying fixes, you or your teen can put issues on the agenda, which may satisfy everyone until the next family meeting.

o Modeling communication and problem-solving skills. Scheduled family meetings move you out of the heat-of-the-moment and offer a place to model communication and problem solving skills.

Of course there are challenges to holding family meetings with teens: It can be hard to find the time and teens might be resistant. Given the rewards, maybe it’s worth the effort to try to make it happen. Here is a guide to family meetings with teens that can help you with developing or continuing the family meeting habit with your teens.

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