This is a deleted section from The Smart Stepfamily Revised and Expanded Edition by Ron L. Deal (Bethany House Publishers,
2014). Used with permission. All rights reserved.
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Seven Steps to a Healthy Family
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MEETINGS: A TOOL FOR PROBLEM SOLVING
Ron L. Deal
this chapter I’ve offered specific strategies for dealing with each of the
pitfalls discussed. In addition, one general strategy for managing issues and
pitfalls is the family meeting. This is an effective tool that can be utilized
in a variety of circumstances.
have strategy meetings on a regular basis. Department heads, supervisors, and
managers join together to discuss current production goals, sales reports, and marketing
efforts. The purpose behind such meetings is to generate teamwork and improve
efficiency and profit as the whole works toward a common goal. Family meetings
help stepfamilies do the same. The goals are different (integration, spiritual
formation, and generating unconditional love and respect), but the process is
biweekly family meetings are the perfect time to process emotions and negotiate
preferences, rule changes, discipline consequences, and roles in the home.
Vacation plans can be made, rituals for the holidays worked out, and feelings
of loss and hurt shared. But perhaps the most unexpected result for many
stepfamilies that make use of this tool is the sense of identity that comes
from a new tradition. The meeting itself becomes a unique tradition that helps
family members listen, spend time with each other, and experience their family
being together. You can have meetings on a regular basis or periodically as
What is a
• Time set aside to promote meaningful
communication and to provide for family discussion, decision-making, problem
solving, encouragement, and cooperation.
• Family meetings can be structured and
formal or flexible and informal.
• Everyone has a part and something to
contribute. Meetings are democratic; that is, everyone has a voice, but not the
same decision-making power. Parents have the final say but should empower
children to contribute whenever possible.
• Ultimately, family meetings build much
needed family traditions, create memories, and establish a working family
How do we
• The process is easier if meetings begin
when children are young (age four or five). Older children may have negative
reactions at first, but most come to value the process once they experience the
• Simply make a decision to start, have a
plan of action, and begin.
guidelines for effective family meetings:
• Make meetings a priority. They should
happen at regular, predictable times (e.g., each Thursday night). Don’t allow
distractions to diminish your commitment to the process. Establish and stick to
• Begin each meeting with compliments and
words of appreciation when they can be offered genuinely. Encouragement
facilitates integration but shouldn’t be offered if not sincere.
• Post an “agenda board” (perhaps on the
refrigerator) and encourage everyone to contribute to the list. Be sure each
item is discussed and equal consideration given to each concern.
• Rotate leaders so that children have a
turn (your teenagers will love being in charge!).
• Honor one another’s feelings and opinions.
Use your listening skills and speak with respect. Don’t permit meetings to
become gripe sessions. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
• Work to find solutions to problem
situations. Brainstorm possible solutions and consequences if agreements are
not kept. This helps each person take ownership of the problem and its
solution. This also clarifies expectations and allows each to experience the
stepfamily working together.
• End the meeting with an enjoyable
activity. You all may be together or break into mini-family groups, but have
ice cream, play mini-golf, or play board games. Make it fun.