Family council is a quick weekly meeting with everyone in the household. It’s best to have it regularly but even if you just do it once a month your family will learn to communicate, coordinate and cooperate with more ease. The most basic meeting would include a schedule review and a discussion of individual/family needs. As you practice meeting together you might find that you’d like to incorporate some other topics into the practice. I recommend starting small and firming up the habit before adding more items to the agenda. Just practice being together, talking openly and being as patient with each other as you can. This week’s agenda will help you have a well-rounded meeting in just a few minutes. Holding the space for family council each week breathes life into the home and gives the family and its members room to heal, grow, and become a strong team.
Here’s an easy agenda for family council tomorrow. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about how open communication in family council allows us to pool our strengths and help each other. We had our daughter’s birthday party this week and I’m usually great at coming up with ideas but then sometimes I have trouble with the more practical aspects of implementation and I end up running around like crazy trying to get details together. Ritchie prepares for life by identifying details and prioritizing them. As we’ve discussed this party at family council over the past few months, I was able to:
1) think ahead & plan ahead
2) incorporate both Ritchie and Jessica’s suggestions. I find that when they make suggestions they are usually pretty creative and if I’m open-minded I am able to utilize their strengths which balance and augment some of my enduring vulnerabilities. The end result was a more enjoyable day for all of us and an activity where everyone had some input. Nice! Yet another benefit to sitting down with the family and planning out our life together once week.
Tomorrow is Sunday, it’s the day we have Family Council each week. Family Council lets our family practice communication and connection around the everyday things in our life. It’s the space in our week where we talk about our schedules and check in with each other about how life is going in our house. Meeting together briefly each week has given our family a lot of opportunities to communicate and creatively tackle problems and challenges. It’s taken us from a place of reactive growth to proactive growth. A few weeks ago I posted a quick start agenda and guide. This week I’m posting an Easy Family Council Agenda with tomorrow’s date. It just includes gratitude, a schedule review and a quick reflective question. There are three agendas to a page. Print out enough that each family member has a copy, give it a try after dinner tomorrow and let me know how it goes!
When beginning a new habit it’s important to start small, be consistent and build some incentive into it. This Family Council Quick Start Agenda covers the basics and allows you to easily begin your first family council meeting this week. Use this agenda until meeting together weekly is an established routine (at least 1 month).
To your spouse you can say “Hey babe, I’d really love your feedback and input on some family stuff and I’d like to have a brief family council meeting. I’ll take care of the agenda.” People rarely say no when you ask for their opinion.
To your kids you can say “Hey guys, I want to know what’s going on with you, we’re going to have a quick team meeting after dinner on Sunday.” You may get grumbling but you can smile and offer to let them choose the game.
Expect to hear “How long is this going to take?” from all parties. Smile and respond with “Not long, and it’ll be fun.”
Print 1 Family Council Quick Start Agenda copy for each member of the family and provide each person with a colorful pen which makes their random doodling all over your painstakingly-prepared agenda look especially nice. Feel free to review the agenda with notes but if your family sees that many words on a page at your first meeting they may run for cover so tuck it under your copy of the Quick Start Agenda and refer to it as needed. Start with the gratitude and make sure each person receives some because that sets a tone of love and appreciation for the whole meeting. Ending with a game leaves everyone feeling like there was at least something fun that came out of it.
In our house my role is to manage our growth and experiences so I create the family council agenda each week. In the coming weeks I’ll share ideas on how to evolve your agenda as your family acclimates and embraces the meeting. So much of it is in the presentation and like Ritchie said, when the agenda shows up, we have family council.
p.s. I welcome your feedback and I’d love to hear how it goes for you!
In the middle of a numbness so shocking and deep, I was blessed with a measure of grace for a few days but I soon found that peace alluded me as I muddled on with life and holidays and vacations. It is so hard to seek heaven and hear silence. Left to my own devices, I could glimpse moments of preparation, mostly in the form of my connections with other people. As I continued to grasp at any strands of heaven that came my way, I was offered the opportunity to weave together a new understanding of God and to seek Him where He is instead of where I wanted Him to be. From a broad perspective, this endeavor has turned out to be one of the more enlightening journeys that I have found myself on. But as is so often the case, the enlightenment has been accompanied by soul-searching and a depth of awareness that is sometimes staggering.
Many times throughout His ministry, the Savior offered His listeners the opportunity to find the things they were seeking. I think we live in a time when it is increasingly easy to find ideas, information, opinions, such that one can cultivate community around any ideas he or she wants to. I think one of the pathways to spiritual growth is the belief that one can be a lifelong seeker of God, continually piecing together an understanding of heaven during whatever experiences one finds oneself in until the day that soul and heaven are eventually reacquainted in full and we have the opportunity to see Him as He is. With a bit more life experience, I have a better understanding of how much effort it takes to make this reconciliation sometimes, to seek out and believe in goodness, love and mercy in the face of devastation, to courageously grow and live when there are so many reasons to fear. With the effort has come the realization that each unique journey offers surprising beauty. Here’s to bravely seeking to see.
The other day I was having a conversation at the pool with a dear friend. As a fellow traveler on this road of healing, she could relate to the place I find myself in with such gracious understanding that I reveled in the tidbits of divinity we were able to exchange. Among them was the thought that I’m in my “becoming years.” I’ve had many an active, doing year and I’ve hit a stretch of life, of unknown duration, where my task is to use discernment about the things I actually do and to instead utilize the opportunity I have to become. The fullness and grandeur of this phase presents no fewer opportunities but the work, instead of being visible or concentrated on others, is an internal task. As such, the measurement is solely my own, as is much of the effort and reward of this work. It is my intent to take the experiences I am offered or that I seek out and incorporate them into my being in an effort to better understand life, creativity and the Creator. These becoming years seem like a good place to breathe for a minute and reflect on that.
Image Courtesy of Veg Plotting
This week I received a lot of kindness. I often am the recipient of kindness but I was kind of surprised at the number of people who were “worried” about me. Perhaps I’m still learning to be an emotive person who showcases more than joy so a blog about poignant sadness was a surprise. Perhaps, like my sister Lisa often reminds me, a few of my dear connections were trying to offer empathy and it came across as sympathy. Empathy is the realization that we can connect on feelings. Sympathy only looks at the similarity in experience and often feels like pity. So one could look at my life and sympathetically say “Wow, yes, I’ve never had infertility, a miscarriage, an autoimmune disorder, a puppy, and severe dietary restrictions all in the same year that sounds like a lot to handle, that must be really hard.” Or you could say “Wow, I can relate to feeling really sad or very vulnerable, broken, worn out and or restricted, or completely overwhelmed. Those are really difficult places to sit, I will sit there with you.” The difference is subtle but the effect is inclusive. With empathy, there is an air of non-judgment regarding the emotion and experience and the recognition that, at our core, we share so much humanity in our vulnerability. With sympathy there is a line in the sand between your experience and mine that often looks like fear, as in ‘I really hope that never happens to me!’ I can relate, I’ve felt my share of fear about my life this year, for sure. But please know that my ability to articulate what I’m feeling is a strength. The words I use to define the experiences I’ve had help me to process them and by sharing the experience I am owning it in a way that simultaneously makes me vulnerable and empowers me. I’ve been thinking a lot about being a muted, faded out version of myself or the real thing. This blog, it’s gonna be the real thing and that’s going to involve emotion. Hang on :).
(NOTE: My apologies if you read this the other day. I accidentally posted it out of order. It should make a bit more sense now :))
Posture. Leaning forward says “I’m invested in what you’re saying, I hear you.” Whereas leaning back can create an air of indifference. It doesn’t have to be an in-your-face forward listening posture, I’m all about respecting personal space. Even an inclined head can close the space between two people in an argument or conversation.
In certain situations, being mindful of body language also really helps me to focus on listening because it takes some extra concentration so I’m not as easily distracted. I may only be able to employ one or two of the body language cues, like making occasional eye contact while I’m slicing vegetables for dinner and leaning my head slightly forward as I listen to RJ weave tales of paving and asphalt glory (Note: this happens on the rare occasion that RJ is home when I am making dinner and our preschooler is occupied and our dog is not barking. It does feel a bit magical to have a decent conversation prior to 9 pm). It may seem like a lot of work at first, but over time it becomes second nature. Try one of these whole body listening cues out and let me know how it goes!
Arms. It is easy to fidget, twiddle or distract oneself with arms or hands, this is especially true if the subject matter you’re listening to is uncomfortable. It is also easy to convey a closed attitude by folding the arms across the chest . As I make the attempt to be a true sounding board for a friend or my spouse or my little one, I try to keep my arms open, maybe with my hands clasped loosely in front of me. My arms can also be at my sides. This says, “What you’re saying, it’s ok with me, I’m welcoming it.” I hear you, this sounds a bit crazy. Try it and see what happens.
As a resident assistant, I remember feeling carried away with fascination as our mentor taught us about the ways to say “I’m listening” with our manner and posture. I had always considered listening to be a task managed with ease by my ears and I was intrigued by the idea that it was a whole body endeavor. So, without further adieu I will relate to you the ways we can listen with our whole selves.
Eye Contact. Have you ever tried to talk to someone and maintain eye contact for more than a few seconds? It’s rare that people will hold your gaze for very long. I like to think that earnest regard can be conveyed through eyes willing to see the speaker, whether the person is 4 or 44. In the 14 years since I was taught this lesson, there have been technological advances (i.e. my iPhone) that have forced me to be intentional about trying to connect and listen with my eyes. I do that by seeking eye contact. Sometimes it takes looking at the side of someone’s head for a bit (because they’re looking at anything but me) but I keep offering it regardless. People say a lot of things with their eyes…have you noticed?
Tomorrow…Listening; with your arms.