Life can be hectic, and it may seem as if each family member is pulled in different directions due to work, school, social and extracurricular commitments. One way to improve family communication and keep everyone informed is to implement family meetings on a regular basis.

To start, plan to hold family meetings once a week (for at least 20 minutes in duration) during a time convenient for the family. All members of the household who consider themselves family should attend the meetings. Next, determine a location that is free from distraction and a time that works with everyone’s schedule. Establish a routine in this location and time each week.

Initially, start with a short agenda that can be lengthened as your routine develops. The topic of the first meeting can be discussing the family meeting or planning a fun family activity for the week. A parent should start off leading the meetings, but later this task can be passed to the children. You can add roles for other family such as secretary or timekeeper.

You may choose to start the meeting with a round of compliments or talking about something from your day you are grateful for. Other agenda items may include calendars or scheduling time, family business, chores, and allowance. Other optional activities include prayer, music sessions, sharing talents or life skills lessons. The family meeting concept allows you to create a family meeting that best fits the personality of your family. To close the family meeting you may decide to share a family treat or special snack.

The goals of the family meeting are not only to improve communication but also to increase family unity, increase family cooperation, decrease conflict, increase mutual respect and love, as well as increasing family organization. Feel free to adapt the outline that best fits your family needs.

For some family fun with your teen, have a “Chopped” Cooking Competition!

Most of us have heard of the Food Network’s cooking competition show, “Chopped,” where four chefs face off against one another to prepare an amazing three-course meal consisting of an appetizer, entrée and dessert. The catch is that they have to use only the ingredients the show provides them.

You can have your own version of a cooking competition using only ingredients in your house! (Make sure to make participants aware of any “off limits” ingredients.)

Set a timer, designate one family member to be the judge, and the rest of you can start cooking to compete for the best dish in the house!

When your family sits down to try the dishes, get conversation “cooking” too with these questions:

  • Share what you liked best about the experience.
  • What was difficult about the challenge?
  • What would you have changed about the meal you prepared?
  • Talk about your favorite food.
  • What types of dishes would you like to create next?

Empathy is valuing other people’s feelings and opinions. During times of stress, we want to stay connected to our family and not treat them in a harsh way. A great way to show your family some love is by “Brown Bagging It.”

The following exercise comes from the Reconnecting Youth (RY) program. It is an evidence-based program offered by Youth First.

  • For this daily practice, all you need is a small brown paper bag, paper, crayons or markers, and a writing utensil.
  • Write down positive statements about each family member daily.
  • Be sure to include weekly achievements!
  • Collect all statements in the brown paper bag.
  • Be as creative as you like with your bag and notes of affirmation.
  • Feel free to read the notes at the end of the day or at least at the end of the week for a quick smile and stress reducer.
  • Hint: A great time to share notes of affirmation is during family meal time.

Everyone becomes overwhelmed at times! When our emotions become intense, it’s difficult to think through making positive decisions.

Luckily, there are steps we can take when we are feeling over whelmed. These steps will help us get to a level of calm in which we can make healthy and positive decisions. Both of these skills are used in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Download the PDF and follow along in these activities.