Last year, my family (my wife and I and our six kids) began a tradition that is one of the best things we've ever done: every Saturday we have a family meeting, and every Sunday is Family Day. We've become so much closer as a family as a result, and I highly recommend it for families of any size.
Before Family Days, our weekends were filled with soccer games, errands, and many family parties. Our kids would spend the night with friends or relatives, and it was hard to find good chunks of time to spend together, as a family.
Then we had a breakthrough: we created Family Day, every Sunday, and had a rule: our kids could spend the night elsewhere on Friday nights, and we could go to family gatherings and other functions on Saturdays, but Sundays became sacred. It was reserved only for us, the eight of us, to do stuff together.
Then we had another idea, almost simultaneously: we created family meetings, usually held on Saturdays, but sometimes on Sunday mornings, where we would all sit around the living room and discuss things as a family, and plan family day. It's a really fun and uniting activity that we all look forward to. Let me explain these two ideas a little more.
We call the family meeting to order, usually on Saturday afternoons, and we all gather in the living room. We get out our family notebook, which has a record of each family meeting, among other things. And we take turns being Leader and Secretary (the person who takes notes for that meeting) -- parents and kids (the four older ones) all participate in the rotation for these two positions.
- The Leader starts every meeting with compliments. We each say a compliment about another family member. This is a nice way to show that we appreciate each other, and a good exercise to think about other family members and the good things they've done.
- Next is Issues: the Leader asks if anyone has any issues to discuss. These can be things like, People need to put the toilet seat down, to things like, how we're going to try to be more frugal this Christmas, to things like suggesting that we all volunteer at the local homeless soup kitchen. The issues are discussed by the whole family, and it helps smooth out any problems that come up during the week.
- Third on the agenda is Family Day -- what do we want to do on Family Day? Each person comes up with a suggestion, and after that, we decide by a process of consensus (not majority rules). That means that we kind of poll everyone to see what they want, and narrow it down to one or two or three options. Sometimes we'll decided to do three or four things on Family Day. But everyone has to agree to the decision -- if someone doesn't agree, then we have to find a compromise or an alternate solution that makes everyone happy.
- Last is the Fun Thing. The Leader gets to choose a fun thing to do to end the family meeting. This can be anything from taking turns adding to a short story, and then reading out the wacky short story that results, or an obstacle course race, or a scavenger hunt, or many other things like that.
We've done many things on Family day, but no matter what it is, we always have a blast together. Our latest idea is to have a Family Day jar, and add $10 or $20 to it each week. Then, each Family Day, we can decide whether to spend it that weekend or let it save up for a bigger event.
Here are some of the activities we like to do on Family Day:
- Board games: we like to play Risk, or Sorry, or Yahtzee, or bingo, or Clue.
- Sports: we go outside and play games like kickball or soccer.
- Book store: we enjoy going to the local used bookstore.
- Restaurants: we've started a thing where we go to different restaurants each time, trying out new restaurants as we go along instead of just going to the same ones.
- Movie night: we like to rent a dvd and have dinner while watching the movie together in the living room.
- Sunset dinner: we pack or buy a dinner and take it to the beach to watch the sunset.
- Movie theaters: we also go to the movies, although we avoid this option because it costs a lot and the baby doesn't like to sit still.
- Waterpark: this is the most expensive option, but a favorite. We spend the entire day at the waterpark and come home exhausted.