Adult children sharing a meal

In a previous article Principles Over Rules, I wrote about how important family meetings were as our kids were growing up. The question is: Are family meetings still an important activity when you don’t live together anymore?

After our sons moved out, went to college, and subsequently got jobs, we saw them less and less. One of them moved across the country, the other two moved a few hours away. So our times together were precious and infrequent. We saw each other during their Christmas breaks and sometimes on vacations. We tried to make the most of our time together. Did we really need to take the time to have a “family meeting?”

About four years ago, they all came home for Christmas. Our oldest son was out of college and had a job, the other two were still in college, and our daughter was in junior high. We were all excited to be together again at home.

Things started to derail after the first night. The two oldest sons started to get on each other’s nerves and began to argue quite a bit. Our youngest son secluded himself away from them. Our daughter was upset that her brothers were not paying any attention to her. Finally, after hearing yet another loud argument, my husband said to me, “We have got to have a family meeting!”

But we wondered – would our sons be willing to sit down and really talk things out like we used to? After all, they had their own lives now and were not really “under our roof” anymore.  How would it go?

What happened amazed us. Our sons and daughter had the humility to see that we needed to sit down and have an honest conversation about what was going on. The meeting was not just about what had been happening since they got home, but how they were doing in their lives. This forum of a family meeting was familiar to them, and everyone jumped right back in.

We each cleared the decks about what had been going on the past couple of days and how we felt about it. Amazingly, just like in the old days, everyone listened and did not respond defensively. Next, we each answered the questions:

  • In my life, what is going well right now – what am I proud of?
  • What am I struggling with?

The things we heard from each other were very inspiring. It brought us closer together. Now we could understand why the oldest two were so tense – they were struggling at work and school. After the meeting, the arguments stopped, and we had a wonderful time together.

This tradition continues in our family today. But now we include the fiancées and girlfriends when they are with us. It is truly wonderful to hear everybody speak honestly about their lives. It has cemented the bridge of trust between us all. No matter how far we live from each other, we open up and share ourselves with each other. And that is family!