A great way to help your family transition more smoothly into a blended family, is to have regular family meetings! Family meetings create a space for each family member to bring up important issues or concerns to be discussed and processed. This can be particularly empowering for kids, who may not always feel like they have a voice or space to process their feelings during a time of big changes and transitions! Family meetings also allow for parents to clearly communicate rules and expectations, while giving kids an opportunity to provide input, increasing their likelihood of buying into family rules and expectations.
Though it’s not realistic to expect every family meeting to go smoothly, there are some steps you can take to help make sure family meetings are a constructive and positive experience!
Before starting family meetings, it’s important for you and your partner to get on the same page about ground rules for meetings, such as being respectful of one another’s feelings, actively listening when other family members are speaking, and allowing each person to have a turn to express their feelings and/or concerns related to a potential issue or topic. Once you’ve established some ground rules, communicate them clearly with each family member at the start of the meeting and continue to remind family members of the rules when needed.
When having a family meeting, it is also important to be clear about the reason the meeting is happening, while providing space for family members to bring up other concerns they may have. Another key component of successful family meetings is to provide space for each family member to share their feelings and/or reactions, while acknowledging and validating these feelings/reactions.
If you notice that your family is having a hard time working through an issue, consider focusing on finding a middle ground, where everyone feels like they are heard and their needs are being met. Know that this is not always easy and may take some time.
Finally, when ending a family meeting, highlight the positives within your family and point out strengths of each family member. This will help members of the family feel valued and appreciated, while strengthening your family!