I called my first family meeting when I was seven years old.
I posted the handwritten notice on the refrigerator for all requested attendees—my mom, dad, and older brother. I’d included the date and time, a location (my bedroom), an agenda, and, most importantly, the assurance that snacks would be provided.
My intention was simple: I wanted us to come together to discuss the future of our family. I had seen both of my parents go to meetings. They’d talk about meetings at the dinner table, and they’d lead conference calls on the phone. There was a tone to their voice that would change when they were in “meeting mode” and I could sense this is how things got done in their world.
I was inspired.
I wanted to have my own meeting as a way for my little voice to be heard in the chaos of family life.
And I liked the idea of leading change like my parents.
After signing in at the meeting, I provided a handout to my family. Clearly I meant business. Other than being a little nervous, the only outcome I remember of that first meeting is that I had started an important family tradition.
My dad liked to combine our family meetings with pizza nights. I can remember times when my mom, with a little desperation in her voice, would exclaim, “We need a family meeting!” Once, my brother called a meeting to renegotiate video game restrictions.
Granted, not all of our meetings were productive. But I can say with absolute certainty that they contributed greatly to our sense of togetherness—and helped me to cultivate my own leadership voice over time. Our family meetings taught me how to learn to speak up.
Here’s what I learned about the positive power of family meetings:
Benefits of Family Meetings
1. They are encouraging.
The fact that everyone showed up to my first meeting was truly special. Even as the youngest, I felt a new sense of inclusion and responsibility in the family. Instead of just going along with the regular flow, I now felt empowered to bring my voice into the action.
I witnessed how we were all a little more thoughtful and helpful when we slowed things down for our family meeting format. At times, my ideas felt boundless and scattered. I appreciated it when my dad added the “no bad ideas” rule that kept the space safe. I also learned that while ideas may start with one person, they flourish with the support and collaboration of others—especially from those who love you most.
2. They build confidence.
My first meeting was a game changer for me. While I was only mimicking traits I saw in my parents, there was something uniquely powerful about having everyone’s eyes on me as I led them through the agenda. Not only was I being taken seriously, I was in charge—and I liked it!
As children, we often feel more like passengers than true crew members in routine family life. It can be incredibly empowering to get to help or lead in some way. The family meeting can draw everyone into crew member status—gaining their ideas and input on a regular basis. A kid’s confidence grows when they see their ideas matter, too.
3. They are emotionally safe.
In preschool, I was so painfully shy I did not say a single word the first year. My mom had to video tape me playing school with my stuffed animals just to confirm for the teacher that I was actually capable of speaking. I had tons of thoughts, feelings, and ideas—but I wasn’t quite ready to share them in a group setting.
After we instituted family meetings, I started sharing the details of my day at the dinner table and beyond. The girl who wouldn’t speak at school was now an energized chatterbox. It was a gift to have a family who would patiently let me share a day’s worth of seemingly endless observations and experiences.
It’s hard to deny that these family meetings have played a pivotal role in helping me grow into the woman I am today. We all can feel humbled in this challenging world we live in. But I’ve always felt a special strength that helps me weather the setbacks that naturally occur, whether it’s not getting a coveted job, failing at a personal goal, or making a misstep in a relationship. I can trace my resilience back to finding my voice in our family meetings.
Any time we provide safety, loving support, and the opportunity to speak freely, our children will thrive. It’s never too early—or too late—to start a family meeting tradition.