Communication and family contracts are important

Published 6:47 am Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Recently, I called to check on a friend and began discussing the difficulties she and her almost-13-year-old daughter had been experiencing as of late. She described the situation, which had once again, gotten out of control and ended with yelling, doors slamming and tears of exasperation from both parties. The drama between a mother and teen daughter … there’s nothing quite like it.
The turmoil that arrives on the scene within the family often begins as small molehills, but can quickly become Mount Everest if not handled correctly. The biggest cause for misunderstandings is communication issues among families. The unfortunate part is that one little misunderstanding can cause bitterness for a long time to come. This simple truth can be akin to the tornado that hit Hattiesburg, Miss., this past weekend. According to Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn, a single tornado caused extensive damage in three counties.
There isn’t a family that hasn’t experienced their fair share of twisters, at some point or the other. When these misunderstandings or problems are not handled correctly, the family’s trees, or emotional connectedness, can easily become snapped into or even pulled up by the roots. This is why it is very important that the issues get handled with care, because if not handled in the right manner, they could turn into dysfunctional families for a long time to come. It also isn’t uncommon to see that a lot of these problems often stem from strained relations between the adults of the house. So, how should communication problems within the family be fixed? Family meetings are a great starting point.
1. Parents decide together to begin holding family meetings.
2. Tell children that you will begin holding family meetings to talk about what’s going on in everyone’s life.
3. Let everyone decide together when and where to hold meetings.
4. Mom and Dad should be the co-moderators for meetings at the beginning. Share the moderator duties with children as you go along.
5. At the first meeting, remind everyone to contribute to the conversation, listen to others, and be supportive — not critical.
6. Use the “Go Around” method. Go around the circle giving each family member the opportunity to respond to the topic.
7. Go Around Topic 1 — Something that made you feel good this week.
8. Parents offer praise, encouragement, and support for the good things that each person mentions.
9. Go Around Topic 2 — Something that bothered you this week.
10. Parents listen for and acknowledge the feelings that are expressed, ask open-ended questions to clarify the problem, and then brainstorm solutions with the entire family.
11. Go Around Topic 3 — Something that you want to work on or accomplish next week.
12. Parents model making an action plan and help children set a specific goal to continue positive experiences or address problems identified this week.
13. Go Around Topic 4 — Your schedule for the week. What meetings, appointments, tests, special events or projects you have this week.
14. Parents identify any scheduling conflicts and individual responsibilities necessitated by the week’s schedule. Plan your week. Teach good time management.
• Set a scheduled time for meetings, post it where everyone will see, and keep the time. If parents are committed to the project, it will have more impact.
• Make the meetings fun too. Tell a story or a joke, play games, have contests.
For additional resources and on communication and family contracts, access the Parent Involvement and Resources website at or visit the District website at “parent involvement” and “resources/links.”
Dr. Cheryl Guy is the parent involvement coordinator for the Decatur County Schools. You can email her at

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