Busy family members can lose touch with each other, but you can strengthen emotional ties and encourage healthy dynamics within your family by regularly setting aside a little time to make decisions, discuss plans, recognize achievements, and solve problems—together.

A family meeting is a somewhat structured, regularly timed get-together. All family members are invited to discuss problems, voice opinions, come up with solutions, and make plans as a group. Some of the built-in benefits of regular family meetings include:

  • Getting the family together in one place at one time
  • Increasing communication
  • Allowing family members to air grievances, resolve disputes, develop problem-solving and decision-making skills

This time together also helps create stronger family bonds, and encourages everyone to work together peacefully as a team.

"I call it the Sunday Sit-Down," says family counselor Allison Cohen, MA, MFT, a family counselor in Tarzana, CA. "It's a wonderful opportunity for couples and families to share perspectives and problem-solve before issues get out of control."

Prep for Family Meeting Success

To ensure a productive family meeting, be sure everyone in the family is not only included, but also encouraged to participate and take responsibility for some aspect of the meeting, such as scheduling, gathering everyone together, setting up the agenda, recording the meeting, or providing snacks.

Generally, no one, not even a parent, should take total control of a family meeting. Instead, parents and children can take turns acting as the group leader. The group leader should help make sure the meeting runs smoothly and efficiently, and reinforce positive behavior and contributions.

Everyone should agree to certain basic rules, such as showing up on time, giving each family member an opportunity to speak, being polite, and not interrupting when someone else is speaking.

The Health Benefits of Family Meetings

Regular meetings can be equally beneficial to your family's psychological and physical well-being, especially if some of the meeting time is devoted to coming up with ways to maintain and improve everyone's health. Topics may include healthy meal planning, scheduling time to cook healthy meals together, introducing new food ideas, and committing to sitting down to family meals at least several times a week. 

Other ways to focus the meeting agenda on family health include organizing regular outdoor activities, such as after-dinner family walks, and planning family vacations that involve physical activity and stress relief, such as hiking expeditions and yoga or spa retreats. Plan a vacation that includes something for everyone.

If a family member is experiencing physical or mental health problems, regular meetings can give that person and everyone else in the family an opportunity to talk about their feelings, address concerns, develop coping mechanisms, and discuss ways to help each other get through difficult times as a team. Even if no one is experiencing serious medical issues, a group meeting is a good time to discuss lifestyle topics like dental hygiene, basic first aid, care of family pets, emergency preparedness, drug and alcohol use, bullying at school, stress at work, and any other issues that could have an impact on your family's health.



"Welcome to the Psychotherapy Practice of Allison Cohen, MA, MFT." Web. Page accessed 14 July 2013.

North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension. "Coming Together: Ideas for Successful Family Meetings." Web. Page accessed 14 July 2013.

McGarvey, Suzanne, Kim, Leon. "Family Councils: The Key is Communication." University of Missouri Extension. Web. Revised April 2007. Page accessed 14 July 2013. http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=GH6641#works