Tomorrow is a big day for parents, teachers, and students in Lee County, Florida.  It is a day I imagine most, if not all of us would never have imagined occurring.  Like some of you, there have been many times I wished I was a fly on the wall seeing what my kids school day was like.   I wanted to see how they were taking in the taught curriculum.  Did it spark curiosity and excitement?  Was frustration or discomfort felt with a new math lesson?  How did they experience hearing the words, “pop quiz?”  What did socialize in school look like?  Although I would try my best to ask open-ended questions either at dinner or the ride home often it was met with a one or two word answer or what felt like a child (at times) thinking of an escape route to the conversation versus the smallest inkling to be in it.

Over the last two weeks I have had the pleasure of hearing from the teachers and parents that I work with they are feeling overall positive about tomorrow. Teachers have embraced this format, even if there was a messy middle.  Teachers who may have been uncomfortable with the online platform are gaining insight and support from others.  Parents and teachers are creating groups to build community and a sense of comfort while navigating this together but separate.  Together but separate is the magic.  No one must be alone.  Have a class list you received the first week of school?  Reach out to parents and start a check-in thread.  Teachers, start one if you haven’t already with your “team.”

The individuals I see that struggle with anxiety and perfectionism feel tugged in lots of ways.  The order of their home has changed.  Does your dining room table that you typically keep clear of clutter now have your kids’ workstations on it and it creates a sense of uneasiness for you?  I get it.  It would make sense that as you look around your house and it looks different that it may spark an uncomfortable feeling.  But here’s the thing.  The navigation can be uncomfortable, but it does not have to be bad.  The navigation can feel difficult, but it will be temporary.  The navigation may feel like a loss of control until you choose how to navigate it.

If you have not listened to Brene Browns podcast from March 20th it is called, “Brene on FFTs.”  Please go listen to it.  It is so fitting for tomorrow.  The other thing I am strongly going to encourage you to do is have a family meeting tomorrow evening.  If you did not grow up in a house that had family meetings or you are a family that has never done one you may right now have clenched teeth, somewhat dagger eyes but please keep reading.  Yes, I know you may get a sigh from your kids.  The eye rolling may be in full force.  Been there, experienced that.  What I have also experienced both in and out of the office is that if you as the adult take a deep breath and move through that initial high-volume annoyance from your family crew these meetings can bring so much good.  Keep ready for 5 benefits you can gain from having a family meeting tomorrow and from now on.


  1. They can be fun and creative

Often when working with individuals, couples, or families and the suggestion of family meetings is shared often I find the resistance is centered around, “they will be boring.”  Years ago, I had worked with a family with that very valid complaint.  We went all in to be creative.  The goal was to have a designated time structured to foster togetherness and sharing.  As a group they decided Sunday evenings worked best.  We did eventually come to a time where a family meeting could be called at any time and it may sound unbelievable right now but at times the kids called it!

Like many families, this one had a busy packed life with working parents’ outside the home and kids in activities.  I understand life right now may not look that way.  But there are still lots of moving parts.  What schedule works best during the day and evening?  What boundaries and teamwork are needed if everyone is now at home?

The ultimate need was to have a gathering space.  We decided the family would enjoy a snack during the meeting.  Well, you guessed it.  This brought up lots of ideas.   One child declared he would be the “Secretary of Sundays!”  Well, if he had a title another child wanted one and became the “Treasury of Treats.” This became the birth of a fun way to have meetings.  With the parents we ironed out the details about the snacks, the format of the meetings, expectations, etc.  Over time the family did look forward to the meeting and started to add an activity such as a boardgame or movie.  Most of the meetings had a light tone but occasionally they were a bit heavy.  There is some heaviness around us.  So much we may feel no voice to.  You have a voice in how you want your family meeting to be.

  1. They can be a positive place to use as a check-in.

I have been so proud of my couples who have been talking together about their needs with this school transition and had open communication with the kids.  To that, I was like “YES!”  you guys nailed it and “Keep going with this!”  Tomorrow evening open the dialogue to check-in with everyone how the day went.  What were the wins?  Did the dogs keep quiet and that was super helpful?  What were the challenges?  Did the headsets not work great?  Were tummies hungry and a snack was needed?

Empower your Secretary (if you have one like that other family) to take short notes from the meeting.  It can be as simple as separate pages in a notebook for: wins for the week, challenges and solutions offered, best snack so far and new suggestions, hopes for the upcoming week.  Write it all down.  Validate and hear every voice.  If your eight year old daughter wants homemade cookies as a snack and you know at this time you do not have the ingredients and uncertain when you can, instead of quickly saying, “we can’t have those”, you can offer “Thank-you for sharing you would love homemade cookies.  While we can’t have them now, what I can do is have our secretary write it in the notebook with your name and todays date, so I remember this was your request and I do not forget.”  Some simple communication techniques are wonderful not only for building connection but also letting those near you feel important.

  1. It allows you to set the intention of new, positive family rituals

Families all over the world are finding themselves in a closer physical space then they may have experienced in years.  College kids are home.  Grandparents or other older family members may be staying with your family.  With many extra-curricular activities cancelled we are together more.  For some, this feels so incredibly right.  It feels like, “home.” Others, while they may be thrilled to have family close by it can create anxiety or discomfort.  Important topics like respect, boundaries, and expectations may need to be discussed.  Time to explore and share these things have not happened.  It was not that parents did not think of it.  Life changed so fast.  It continues to feel as if it is changing so fast.  A family meeting can be the perfect stage to invite the speed you want.  Positive change can be birthed in the most trying of time.  To do so we need to be open to it.  We need to see we can create it.  Embrace it may have a messy middle.  Believe in the shift you want to see.  Okay, all this can feel like a foreign language if this is something you’ve never done.  After you do the first one you cannot say that anymore (you listened to the podcast I mentioned up top I’m hoping so you get what I’m saying.)  yes, nudge, nudge.  Let’s not overthink this.

Tell your family members this morning at breakfast we are having our first family meeting.  If you are creative and have time, go all out.  Make an invitation announcement.  Share the snack that will be served.  Talk about the reason behind it.  Most of us do not like surprises unless it’s the holidays or our birthdays.  It can read, “Cupcakes and Conversation” or “Fruit and Family Time” or “Donuts and Dialogue.” Meet at the kitchen table tonight at 6pm to share how school went today and what you may need.

  1. It creates structure, consistency, connectedness

People thrive are these things.  Structure and consistency foster emotional safety.  These three things may have shifted, temporarily disappeared, or feel different with the implementation of social distancing.  With this you can choose to allow it to pull you away or you can allow this to pull you in.  Pulling in means doing what feels right in your heart even when you think about it there is discomfort.  Pulling in means vocalizing the words you are aware you want to be heard.  Pulling in means allowing excitement to be a stronger force to practice being the parent you want to start showing to your family.

Doing the turning in doesn’t have to feel alone.  Have some fears or vulnerability around it?  Please be gentle to yourself and proud to acknowledge it.  Tell your family.  You are sharing and modeling an important family/relationship tool does not have to be perfect!  There does not have to be jumps for joy to have it.  What it does need to have is the internal push to embrace the idea, love on the messy middle, and congratulate your family for doing it in the end.

You did it!  You read about the possible benefits you can have from a family meeting.  Now, more than ever it is important to allow time and space for sharing, asking questions, being heard.  You do not need to do it alone.  It takes everyone huddling in together and talking.  Spend a few minutes thinking about how you want that time to look tonight.  You can make it happen,

Need support with communication and addressing important topics?  Want to brainstorm healthy boundaries for your home and assistance communicating them?  Invite me to your table.  With online counseling you get to decide the time and place.  Reach out to me at 239-848-2022 or at www.heleneshute.com




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