The Family Conference
This was and still is, I might add, a very important part of our family tradition even as adults. I have always thought this was one of the most important ways to teach self-esteem and self-empowerment. Children long to be included in decision making. These “conferences” were a place where what they say counts and most importantly, and most of all what they feel counts. If memory serves me, I think I remember some of the more important reasons family conferences were held:
- Weekend plans
- Vacation destinations
- We are moving (again)
- Someone’s starting a new job
- Problems with friends or classmates
- Moving rooms or sleeping places
- The stars, the heavens & why are we here?
- Someone wants more freedom
It is a bonding experience where the older ones can help the younger ones cope and understand their problems using their own experiences. Children need to be taken seriously in this way. Our life style seemed to be always a chaotic frenzy of time schedules where most of the time I listened to them all with one ear while preparing dinner, throwing coins in the laundry machines at the laundry mat, picking up the house and french braiding someone’s hair while getting ready for work.
Family Conferences allowed me to “table” a decision on something until a day off and more peace prevailed. In the meantime the person who called the family conference would need to gather what they wanted to change and why. Listing on paper was highly encouraged in hopes of minimizing the blank look and shoulder shrugging. The kids all became quite the little litigators using this method. Most teachers were impressed by their quick reasoning powers. No one was allowed to state a problem without at least three solutions as options to decide on. This little rule drove them all crazy but made excellent problem solvers in the long run. Of course the solutions had to be reasonable. For instance, posting an index card on the laundromat bulletin board offering your sister for free babysitting, house cleaning, garbage taking out, would not be considered reasonable. Lots of little old ladies answered that invitation to my everlasting frustration.
If the conference was about moving there were pictures, maps and information about the proposed area. Exact dates and time and reason of moving was also open for discussion. The same was true for holidays, vacations and weekend visits to relatives.
Children, I learned, are bright, clear, aware, flexible, and come to the table uncluttered with old history or old society beliefs. They teach you to think out of the box. They were all very creative and astonishing with solutions. It made very clear the fact that we were all in this together and that knowledge made for a circle of bonding full of respect and caring. It taught them that there was nothing you could not get through. They found out that through it all no one knows you better than your family. No one is better to take charge when you can’t. They had experience beyond their years by solving, changing and being honored for who you are.
Honor your children and never lose the family empowerment circle of respect.