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  • Writer's pictureYvette E. McDonald, LCSW-QS

Reminders from the Coach on Weekly Family Meeting's

Some fresh perspective and tools on a concept I speak about regularly within parent coaching sessions with regards to becoming an emotion coach to your child.

Today let's take a minute or so to remind ourselves about the topic of Weekly Family Meetings and how to effectively implement this concept/skill with your family.

Weekly Family Meeting's: Dr. John Gottman states that the "weekly meeting can be a good way for the entire family to solve problems and stay connected." PURPOSE: create connection and conversation.

The details:

  • 15-30 minutes with young kids; 6 years old and younger

  • 30-60 minutes with older kids

How to start:

  1. Starts with appreciations and talking about whats going right. Each family member's takes a turn speaking about what they appreciated this week and what has gone well.

  2. Everyone shares an appreciation of someone else in the family that hasn't been already expressed.

  3. Each person gets to present an issue and talk about what they feel and what they wish/need. The presenter (known as the speaker) of the problem has to be polite and pleasant. No sarcasm, low-blows, put-downs, insults or criticism. The best way to keep it clean is to use the format "I feel __________, about _________________(state the problem), I need _________________. Family members are not to say something negative about another person. No blaming. Once they are finished talking somebody else in the family has to summarize and validate what that person said. This will ensure that the speaker feels understood and heard. If responsibility is appropriate the responsible party is to take responsibility for their part in the problem.

  4. Move to problem solving. Problem solving will involve various components such as compromising. The key is identifying solutions, evaluating options and come up with a solution that will work best. It's okay if it's back to the drawing board next week, sometimes the first solution may not work.

  5. Additional options: Family meetings can also cover specific topics such as: "What is bravery?" or "What is courage?" or "What does it mean to be a good friend?" or "How to make a friend?" or "The difference between tattling and reporting?" or "How to THINK before you speak." or "How to handle peer pressure?" or "How to resist the pressures of porn." and so on.

Family members jobs:

  • listenting

  • avoid telling your child what to feel or what they shouldn't feel

  • encourage an honest exchange of thoughts and feelings while permitting your child to feel

  • communicate empathy and understanding (which does not mean you agree it just means you understand)

  • be compassionate

  • be non-judgemental

  • listen more than you talk

  • ask open-ended questions that encourage them to share more (seek to understand)

  • show acceptance of whatever feelings and thoughts they are having

  • communicate that you hear them

  • KEY: hear what they are saying or try to put yourself in their shoes, acknowledging that you understand what they are saying

One of the biggest skills you will be developing at this time is the art of listening. The Gottman's have created simple yet powerful steps for being a good listener breaking down the task into four steps.

  1. Step 1: Prepare yourself. Make sure you are not brining in any baggage from the week or day that will alter your ability to be present in the conversation. This is a time where you are putting yourself to the side in order to truly hold space for the speaker(s). If needed take some time for yourself during the day practice good self care techniques allowing yourself to recharge and decompress enabling you to come to the meeting the best version of self.

  2. Step 2: Attune. Your job is to understand. Go into an investigated heart mode in order to understand the most you can regarding the speakers thoughts and feelings surrounding what they are speaking about. Ask open-ended questions. Suspend judgement, sarcasm, or any other negative actions that would make the environment unsafe and shut down the flow of communication and sharing.

  3. Step 3: Summarize and reflect back what you hear. This part is huge because in order for the speaker to know you heard them then need to hear it from you in a way that conveys "I hear you and see your pain". This feeling is best felt with a summary of what the person is saying. But, don't fret if you get is wrong as the listener you can just ask for clarification in order to make sure you fully understand.

  4. Step 4: Validate, communicate understanding and empathy. Big take away with this step is that validation does NOT equal you agreeing with what is said. Validation just means that you understand, even it's just a small portion. You can say "I can see how that upset you the other day. Sounds like you were both hurt and annoyed with the actions I took."

Family meetings can be a great opportunity for you guys to share, connect and enhance each other's maps (aka knowledge of each other, think goggle maps). Remember that in the beginning you have to have mercy and patience as this is a new habit and skill you guys are learning and developing as a family. It won't be perfect right out the gate. It may take time for everyone to feel safe and trust both the people and the process. Stick with it and work your way into it. Perhaps at first discussing the process in which you guys are going to embark on together as a family will help. This way you guys can unpack the feelings, thoughts, ground rules and purpose around having a regularly scheduled weekly family meeting.

KEY TAKE AWAY: Trust the process and manage your flooding!

A note on my experience with the family meeting has been quite the adventure. It was birthed out of a unexpected divorce when the boys were little and overflowing with emotions and thoughts about what was going on to both their family and heart. We used the time to discuss any questions they had, their thoughts and feelings regarding the whole situation. The loved the time and couldn't wait to have the next family meeting. They even tried to invite other people into the process. Over time though it turned into a ritual that I never planned it to be. We started to use the time to discuss any weaknesses we were experiencing as a family, big life changes, scheduling changes and so on. For example we went through a season where they didn't know how to express remorse so we used our family meeting to unpack the concept of remorse. We would even role play the concept and then talk about our feelings and thoughts about expressing remorse. There were times we even played games, did art activities or watched movies relating to the topic. It was and continues to be a family bonding moment in which we share, learn and grow together. I started the ritual by accident but it's cool to hear more that 10 years since beginning it that it's a habit worth investing in.


Traveling Light Counseling is in the heart of Port Saint Lucie, FL and easily assessable from both Vero Beach and Martin County due to our close proximity to US1 and the Turnpike. I am committed to helping couples and parents level up and navigate their relationships with intentionality .


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