By Debbie Ramsey

When my daughter was about 12, I sensed the tension in our house was strong and that some unspoken things needed to be discussed.  We were a blended family and there was a lot of “catching up” on life to do – who you are as people, what you struggle with, what you care about, what makes you tick and what ticks you off.  That can be difficult to accomplish in the midst of normal everyday activities. So my husband and I called everyone into the living room and had a family meeting.  He ran it much like he would a meeting at his office, and frankly, I was a little surprised at the outcome.

While there were some outbursts of emotion and even a tear here and there, what I didn’t anticipate was the countenance of my daughter when the meeting was over.  She took on a more grown up demeanor.  I could tell she knew we were treating her with respect.  Instead of her parents individually talking to her or confronting her about an issue, this was a time where each person could share their heart.  We had a discussion and when appropriate even a vote.  This was not a time for setting rules of the house and we were not giving up our roles as parents, just agreeing on how or when we would handle talking about the issues.

With this meeting format we knew our daughter felt heard because she had a platform to say what she needed to say without feeling threatened.  And because she felt heard she was more willing to listen to us.  We also recognized that some of our expectations needed improvement and we were willing to make changes.   By admitting our faults and asking forgiveness when appropriate, it helped her to be able to accept her own faults and address them as well.

Next we committed to work on our action items, our plan for changing to the best of our ability during the coming week.  This put us all on the same page and bonded us in a way we hadn’t bonded before.  We committed ourselves to trying to live peacefully as a family while growing and developing to be the best people we could be.

After that family meeting, we committed to meet regularly to hear how we had done on our responsibilities and address any new issues.  Eventually the meetings became multi-functional, including plans for vacations, picnics, future goals, etc.  We often ended in laughter, which was a good sign.  We also began and ended with prayer asking God to help us.

Our family meetings became a great tool for us as a family and perhaps other families could use this forum as well.  Disagreements and problems can be brought up and discussed in a constructive way to help family members come to know, understand, and hopefully love each other more.  For us, it has been invaluable.