In December 2017 I realised that I wasn’t communicating with the children and I wasn’t taking the time to get to know them or giving them the opportunity to express how they were really feeling or what they were thinking. I also noticed a gap in their communication skills and interpersonal interaction. Partly this is due to the self-absorbed-ness we (the parents) have encouraged in them and part of it is due to their lack of education in how to actually interact with other people.
I felt it was important to begin a process of correcting the lack of education from myself and over the past 5 months we have began to have what I call “family meetings” or “debriefs”.
The meetings began once a week as Pete and I had the kids “week about”*. So on arrival at my place the kids and I sit down and the kids are encouraged to nut out all the issues, feelings, thoughts, and things that have happened over the week they have been away.
Outline of family meetings
The kids speak about their experiences and feelings. They raise issues that they feel concerned, sad, angry, afraid, happy about etc. I will raise issues that concern the whole family or new things to experiment with over the week/s to come.
My aim is to uphold an environment that supports love and truth for everyone in the family. This means that while it is important to express feelings and emotions it is also important to find God’s Truth on all matters, thus we speak about “Facts and Feelings”.
I describe this as follows:
Facts are God’s Truth, the facts of what happened.
Feelings are how we feel about what happened.
Once each person has debriefed, the kids choose a personal issue they want to focus on during the week. This might be an emotion that keeps coming up, or something they want to practice such as being more truthful and saying what they really want and feel, rather than what others want to hear.
We talk about the quickest way to deal with issues: feel the emotion until it is all felt and released. We discuss strategies about how we can find, feel and work through addictions, unethical attitudes or emotions that are out of harmony with love and how we can all create an environment to support emotional expression rather than shut emotional expression down (The information we talk about comes from Divinetruth.com). We speak about the difference between talking and acting and how when emotions come up is the best time to feel them.
We speak about “what God or Love would do”, and what we know or have heard about how God treats us and what might happen if we continue acting in the same ways we currently are – both unloving/unethical & loving/ethical. We speak about how living in harmony with God’s Way leads to happiness and living out of harmony with God’s Laws leads to pain and suffering (we get specific). We have conversations about pain and happiness and the kids are encouraged to reflect and trial different ways of doing things to experiment for themselves to test if it is true.
What the kids are identifying currently is that often their interactions with each other cause pain in themselves or each other and bringing their attention to this in the moment helps them to see a relationship between their actions and how they affect others.
I take note of the interactions the kids have and when we have our next meeting or during the week we speak about the interactions so the kids have personal experiences to relate to. I try and make what I am speaking about personal to each of them so they begin to relate the feelings to the actions they are taking. I look for contrasts so the kids can see the impact of their actions in harmony and out of harmony with Love and Truth.
Lastly we have a practice conversation.
Note 1: I don’t lecture the children or force them to interact, but I also don’t let issues go. I take the opportunities that present themselves, I raise issues of love and I ask the children questions about what they feel and think. My aim is for the children to become reflective and to feel their feelings.
Note 2: I don’t speak about my emotional experience or process because I don’t feel that is the point of this exercise. When emotions come up for me during the week I uphold the same principles with myself as I am asking of the children.
Benefits of family meetings/debriefs
The debriefs open up many conversations and I learn a lot about the children.
I am getting to know what the kids actually think and feel.
The children are learning that they can express their thoughts and feelings and that they can feel what they feel, say what they want to say, and think what they think.
We get to discuss the importance of God’s Truth and how in order to live by truth we need to be truthful about what we feel and think and desire, once we are then we can change and grow if we want to.
Learning about the existence and benefits of God’s methods of communication, including the conscience, receiving God’s Love, God’s Laws.
Highlighting the importance of being emotionally sensitive to our own soul in order to feel and notice God and God’s feedback systems.
The meeting create a space and encourage feelings to come up and be felt in the moment.
The children are learning they can speak with me about any issue and I will attempt to help them discover God’s Truth about the matter for themselves. (My aim is to provide education so the kids become self responsible and know how to find/feel God’s Truth and work through emotions for themselves if they desire to do so).
We are learning we have choices.
We are learning how our actions, intention, attitudes and emotions affect ourselves and others.
The aim to begin the process to become self-responsible.
We are discovering the emotions that are driving our behaviors, and the addictions, demands and exceptions we have and how these affect others and the environment.
How a family meeting looks in action
We sit down at the table, or on the couch (sometimes we have debriefs in the car on the way to and from school).
I usually audio record the debriefs and take written notes to refer back to during the week.
Each child has the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings about the week.
Each child has a time where they can uninterruptedly express their thoughts, feelings, joys and concerns. This often brings up emotions and they are encouraged to go to their room feel how they feel before returning to the conversation.
The children converse with each other about any issues that came/come up between them or with their parents, teachers or other kids at school or socially.
Once the children have said what has happened during the week they are encouraged to directly speak to each other about how they feel and what happened between them during the week. The purpose is for them to experience how to communicate their feelings without blame, to listen to another person, to express their feelings and to have a go at resolving the issues between themselves, it also brings up emotions. Example if one child was angry at the other they speak about it directly, both parties have the opportunity to discuss the issue. In this example I act as a mediator.
During this part of the conversation the kids must own their feelings and are encouraged to say how they feel about the treatment, often this brings up emotions in all parties and we pause the conversation while the children go and feel in different rooms. Once they are done we come back and resume the conversation. If they blame or the anger resurfaces they must part ways and go and feel before resuming the conversation. If it is not resolved I will speak to them about the issue and encourage the emotion to be felt.
It is sometimes challenging as the parent with our own emotions. If we support one child belittling another for instance we are likely to allow it during the conversation. So upholding God’s Truth becomes very important (this requires work on the parents part and is an ongoing discovery for me personally).
If the children begin to blame each other, justify unloving behaviour, attitudes or fight this is addressed in the moment, all parties go off and feel then return and resume the conversation. Sometimes this takes a while as the cycle happens a number of times.
The children can also raise issues they have with their parents and they speak to me about their thoughts and feelings.
Once the children have said what they want to say, the decide what their focus for the week is going to be.
Each child has different areas they want to work on and each child is given the time to feel about ways they would like to challenge, confront, or work with that issue. I write these down so I remember, and the kids also write down their focus for the week.
After the first few debriefs the meetings began to happen more regularly than once a week. The kids began to instigate and call meetings themselves. Impromptu debriefs happen now, as well as the formal weekly meetings and we all sit down and hash out the issue/s, often with one or all of us going and feeling emotions and then coming back and talking further until the emotions come up or the issue is resolved. (There are many issues that are not totally resolved in the family. The meetings have highlighted that the next phase is to work on growing personal desire in order for things to really change.)
Once the debrief has been completed we have “conversation practice” where the children practice having conversations with each other. So far these end up in tears or parties getting angry at one another because the other party is not listening to them. I feel this is a positive step as it highlights some emotional injuries and demands that both the children and parents in the family have that need to be worked through.
I have noticed that each child’s focus has been the same for 2-3 months so we have begun speaking about desire and how things don’t change unless we grow a desire.
I cannot generate a desire in anyone who doesn’t have one. I can only provide an environment to encourage desire. This is a new area for me and something that I am experimenting with.
So far I am finding that upholding basic ethics, God’s Truth and morality, helps to give pretty firm guidelines on a loving environment. I have also discovered that talking doesn’t create change. Action has the power to create change. Consistent loving action is a very effective way to generate change without getting bitter and angry.
While parents hold onto their co-dependence and emotional injuries it is difficult for children to work through their emotions. For example if a parent is in agreement with unloving behaviours in the children it is going to be very difficult for the child to release the emotions that creates the behaviour until the parent changes. When one parent condones certain behaviours and the other doesn’t the children will act differently in each parents company. If a parent suppresses their anger, fear, sadness the children will reflect this also and suppress these emotions also.
I am really enjoying the process of getting to know the kids. I have more compassion for them and I get insights into how they feel about what is happening in the family. The beauty of these discussions is they bring up emotions including fears, sadness, anger and many other emotions during the conversation.
I notice that if I am shut down emotionally the emotions do not come up as easily in the children.
Some of the things we are learning include:
- upholding an environment based on love and truth
- the difference between facts and feelings (God’s Truth and their inherited emotional injuries)
- our addictions, demands, unloving desires upon the children and others
- interacting with people
- our personal emotions and choices
- that taking loving, truthful action is the fastest way to learn and encourage change
- that conflict is part of growth
- self reflection and how our choices and actions affect others and ourselves
- how to provide an environment where we can experiment, feel and become sensitive to God’s methods of communication and the consequences of our choices and actions.
Note: I tried doing family meetings a few years ago and it didn’t go well. On reflection I feel it didn’t work as I was “trying” and going through the motions rather than having a genuine interest in the children. Also I wasn’t prepared to uphold love during the interactions. Now we speak about God’s Truth on the matter and discuss the options, for example we can continue to behave as we are, which will cause pain and suffering in the long term, or there is another option – God’s Way and this will lead to joy and happiness. We then discuss the false beliefs of “how is that possible”, “what if it doesn’t”, “I don’t know how to change”, “I can’t do it” (fears and expressions of the beliefs of the parents are expressed through the children).
Family meetings are having a positive influence on the family. We are learning many things including “facts and feelings”, personal choices, love and truth, taking action and how conflict creates opportunities to grow. Over the next months I will be implementing some modifications and focusing on how to create an environment that encourages desire.
Until next time, all the best
Kids enjoying a face mask