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family supper dialogue

8 Guidelines for Family Discussions

Having effective family conversations can be challenging. Whether you have scheduled meetings or more casual family discussions during meal-time or as the need arises, there are basic guidelines that can help you to have productive family dialogue.

  1. Include all family members. Children need to be included. It is important that every family member gets the information at the same time from the same source. Be straight-forward, but ensure that what you are sharing is age-appropriate.
  2. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak. Ask if anyone has any questions.
  3. Listen and don’t interrupt. Allow each person to finish what they are saying. To ensure that you understand each other, you might choose to paraphrase what family members have said and ask if you have understood their meaning.
  4. Start your discussions with something positive. If you are talking about a problem, start with a positive: “I notice that you’re really improving on putting your dirty clothes in the laundry, but I’d also like to see you put your clean clothes in the closet.”
  5. Be aware of how you deliver your statements. Your tone and how much energy is in your voice are as important as the words you deliver.
  6. Stay calm. It’s better to cool down before involving children in a family discussion. Turn the discussion over to the parent who is more removed from the subject at hand. That parent is more likely to be in a better frame of mind to deal with a contentious issue.
  7. Maintain your sense of humour. Look for opportunities to add laughter even during the most serious of discussions, as long as it is something that everyone can laugh at and not hurtful or demoralizing to any of the discussion participants. It’s safest if the humour is self-directed.
  8. Respect each other’s differences. When a number of people live under the same roof, there will be varied views, likes and dislikes. Make sure everyone’s views are heard and everyone’s opinion is valued and respected.

Remember that family discussions are a wonderful way to let your children know that you value their thoughts, opinions and ideas, but, it’s not an equal system. There is still a distinction between the adults and the children. Remind your children that their input is important and that you appreciate their perspective, but ultimately, as parents, you have to decide what is best for the family.