“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” – Catherine M. Wallace
Staying sane while raising a blended family can seem almost impossible at times. It’s been a challenging few months, and to top it all off one of my children is going through her own rough chapter… and it’s easy to see how one person in the family’s struggle can affect the entire brood.
We have started a new tradition, compliments of my brilliant brother who seems to always find a way to love everyone through even the toughest times. He comes from a very religious background and is now walking his own path but guided by many beliefs from a beautiful faith that has empowered him with wisdom. One of his most valuable practices is a weekly family meeting.
This tradition is really about putting your family first before anything else. No matter what’s going on in your life, when you can schedule a family meeting and make that a priority – it teaches your children that family comes first and that our existence together is the most important thing in the world.
So I started calling family meetings in our home and it has become not only a precious time to check in but also an important opportunity to problem-solve and unload pent-up feelings. It’s simple and effective and everyone seems to come out ahead after a meeting. It’s a free space to talk, express ourselves, complain, apologize, take responsibility, vent and ask for change. We also praise each other and share great moments too.
All I do is say, “Let’s have a family meeting tonight at ___ o’ clock.” It’s mandatory that everyone is present. Then I begin by asking everyone if anything is going on with them that they wish to talk about.
Sometimes I have to fish a little bit… “Anything bothering you guys? Anything that you wish had gone differently this week? Anything you feel bad about? Good about? Any special or difficult moments?”
I’m always surprised at what comes up, how even my little ones find something to contribute and how much they enjoy having undivided attention from the whole family during their turn. One of the things that has really stuck out for me is how easily we can get focused on the child that is having issues – and not on how much it may be affecting the other family members.
Everyone needs an outlet and to feel that they are heard, even us moms who are usually fixing, not seeking any help. Creating a space and time to share feelings is super important to my family and so effective. Giving my children the opportunity to talk and be heard, to respect each other’s opinion and a platform for honesty – these are invaluable life lessons.
Sometimes I take a “heart bath” with Rain – that’s what she calls it. She loves one on one time (which is hard to come by) and she loves to take a bath with me. We call it our heart time to share our whatever we are feeling inside, no rules! Sometimes it’s just a love fest but other times it’s an outpouring of hurtful stuff I never may have known about.
I want my children to be able to express their feelings, good and bad, and to know that someone will listen. Sometimes after hearing complaints, I just say “Thanks for telling me all that, I will really try to work on it and pay attention to your feelings. And sometimes that’s all it takes to give my kids some comfort.
It’s amazing what you may discover if you just slow down and take the time to ask…