If you tuned into the sappy 70’s television show The Brady Bunch every week, you most likely watched Mr. Brady eloquently hold a “Family Meeting,” every now and again. If you don’t recall the popular sitcom, it was about a middle-class family in an idyllic Los Angeles suburb that got along way to well compared to reality standards. Heck they even took the housekeeper Alice on family vacations to Hawaii.
Cut to 2015 where the Family Meeting has gone out of style the same way as the leisure suit. This is exactly the reason why this practice should be brought back in an effort to raise a Drug Free Teen – a challenging proposition these days.
But in retrospect – family meetings were and still are good idea. Sure parents are sometimes the recipients of some glares and deep sighs from their teens, however, it is a great way to clear the air and nip any lingering family issues in the bud. It’s sort of like a basketball coach, who is playing poorly and calls a time out to talk to his players before the game slips away.
As the family leader – if you are either the mom or dad – your job is to keep the family in sync by communicating in a group setting before things get out of control.
While statistics on teen drug use is hard to come by when comparing the 1970’s to 2015, it is obvious it has escalated by the number of teen users and the types of drugs now available on the street.
According to a Gallup poll, the ranks of those who had tried illegal drugs grew — in 1973, 12% of respondents to a Gallup poll said they had tried marijuana. That number had doubled by 1977. Now today, we are not only witnessing more drugs in circulation like Molly, prescription drugs, synthetic drugs, bath salts and inhalants to name a few, we are seeing some of the hardest drugs like heroin go mainstream among teens in the suburbs. Furthermore, the potency of marijuana has substantially increased since the 70’s.
Perhaps, the increased drug use among teens can be tied to families becoming disenfranchised by electronic devices and yes a decline in family meetings by parents.
A family meeting may not prevent your teen from being exposed to drugs, but it can at the very least keep a parent abreast with their child’s extracurricular activities and whereabouts – ultimately making it more difficult for them to get lost in the weeds so to speak.
“If your family has the TV on at the dinner table rather than talking to each other about each others days, you are missing out on an opportune time to strengthen your all too critical family bond,” said Karen Corcoran-Walsh, the founder of Inspirations for Youth and Families Teen Rehab as well as the Cove Center for Recovery adult treatment center. “After all, a family dinner is in all intents and purposes an ad hoc family meeting.”
Walsh admits for most families trying to get everyone together in one room is difficult. However, experts will agree family meetings are one of the more useful tools used for raising confident, cooperative and competent children.
Here’s why Family Meetings are so important for a teen’s development as well as things to consider:
1. Improves family communication – More and more today, family members are going in different directions and at break neck speeds. Add to this the fact that each person is unique and perceives the world in his or her own way. Miscommunication can cause hard feelings. It is crucial to never assume that what you are saying is being comprehended the way you intended it to be, or that you in fact understood what others are trying to tell you. Always take the time to check perceptions. The family meeting can be a “rest area” where time is set aside to make certain that communication is clear.
2. It makes stronger connections and, therefore creates a closer family – In this very busy world, designating time weekly is one way to ensure that family members stay connected with one another. Relationships are living things and must be nurtured. Family meetings are about nourishing our relationships with the most important people in our lives. Get in the habit of connecting regularly.
3. Engenders leadership experience – Everyone should have a turn at leading a family meeting. This is a great way for teens to learn at an early age leadership experience.
4. An avenue to reward a teen’s achievements and good behavior – This is a way to give teens and adults a vehicle to let one another know how much they are appreciated and acknowledge their accomplishments. It’s far too easy to take this for granted. Positive reinforcement is one of parent’s best family development tools.
5. Establish a safe, respectful environment to problem solve – Teens will learn that problems can be discussed openly and honestly and therefore solved respectfully through communication together as a family.
6. Make the family meeting fun – These meetings provide a great opportunity for the family to participate in fun family activities. The family meeting shouldn’t be viewed as a chore like taking out the garbage or washing the dishes. Try to weave fun into every family meeting. Create a contest where siblings could compete for a prize by receiving points for every positive thing they do like getting an A in school, doing household chores, or simply keeping their room clean. As family members get to know one another better, share stories, laugh, and problem solve together – deeper relationships will develop.
No one is claiming your family needs to emulate the fictional Brady Bunch TV clan. By incorporating a family meeting into your household will not only make the family a more cohesive unit, it could be the difference between raising a drug-free teen versus one with a life altering addiction problem.