FAMILY MEETINGS

A tool designed to promote meaningful communication within the family; to enable a dysfunctional family to function in a healthy way.

GOALS:

1. To promote self-awareness
2. To promote appropriate self-disclosure
3. To promote the art of listening
4. To enhance family nurture and thereby meet the basic human needs of being loved and feeling worthwhile within the family unit.

PROCESS

1. Select a "sacred time"agreeable to all family members. The sacred time will be honored above any other activity or event. It is essential that this time be honored. Keeping this "sacred time"demonstrates to all members that the family is more important than anything else.

2. The family meeting will be held once a week at the agreed upon "sacred"time.

3. Members of the family will take turns leading the meeting according to age appropriateness. Even quite young ones can learn to lead.

4. The person in charge will begin the meeting by sharing his/ her feelings with the other family members. This self-disclosure is designed to include all feelings.

For example: "Right now I am feeling ------------------"
"I am really happy about------------------------"
"I am excited about -----------------------------"
"I am disappointed that ---------------------"
"I felt hurt when------------------------------- "
"I became angry when------------------------"
"I am afraid when ----------------------------"
"I felt important when -----------------------"
"I felt ashamed when ---------------------------"
"I feel guilty for -------------------------------------"
"I am proud of myself for --------------------"
"I become sad when -------------------------"

Basic Rules

1. It is extremely important that the person sharing only talk about himself.This is not the time to talk about others, nor is this the time to lecture, preach, or gripe.

2. No one is allowed to interrupt the one who is disclosing himself / herself.

3. The other family members must listen until it is their turn to share. When the first person is finished with their self-disclosure, the next person begins.

4. Be patient until all have shared.

5. When all family members have shared themselves, a discussion period should be held for points of clarification, to avoid misunderstandings. It is important to keep this time free from advice giving and arguments. The discussion time is for clarification.

6. In case a disagreement or fight should occur, no one is allowed to leave the room until an agreement satisfactory to all family members has been reached. This is to show that most difficulties can be solved by verbal communication. It is most helpful if an older family member assumes responsibility for this process.

Rules for Fair Fighting

These rules for "fair fighting" may be helpful in developing meaningful communication:

a. Never attack - keep the focus on self; use "I" statements like "I feel" "I sense" "I think " "I will" No personal attack is allowed.

b. If the communication is not clear, request that each one paraphrase what they have said using different words. Work at this until it is clear to all.

c. Take everything that is said seriously.

d. Determine the direction of all hostility by asking - "With whom is this person really angry?"

e. Encourage each person to share all their emotions honestly. We want the family to be a safe place to share.

Fighting is not necessarily bad. If the fighting is fair, communication continues. The real enemy of communication and relating is SILENCE.

SUGGESTIONS

The family meeting is NOT to become a therapy group. If counseling is needed, seek help from a counselor who is not a member of the family. Counselling can occur only when the counselor can remain an "objective outsider". The family meeting will help a family to function as a nurturing unit, if used as suggested.

RULES FOR COMMUNICATION - GUIDELINES FOR FUNCTIONAL FAMILIES

1. Do not keep score. It is not helpful for me to justify my behavior or your past behavior

2. Do not assign BLAME.

3. Do not LECTURE. Instead share your perceptions and feelings.

4. Do not JUDGE the perceptions and feelings of others. Allow them without comment.

5. Remember that our focus is HONESTY and not perfection.

6. Practice differentiating between a person's VALUE and their behavior.

7. No matter what happens, hang in there. Do not give up!

8. Treat your family members with UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE.