For many members of the Church, the idea of “family council” can loom in our imaginations in imposing bold letters, bringing on feelings of anxiety or stress. It’s an important principle, and something we know can bless our lives, but often times we don’t know where to start or how to make it a regular habit in our homes.
In 2003, President M. Russell Ballard said, “The family is under heavy attack from antagonists bent on extinguishing this powerful source of light in a darkening world. Successful families have a wide assortment of tools, and one of the most useful tools is the family council.”
With that admonition given almost 20 years ago, it feels increasingly more important to find ways to hold a family council regularly. Thankfully, President Ballard also provided a more reassuring and inclusive definition of a family council:
Whenever there are two or more members of a family together and a discussion is going on, that is a council! Family councils can be held in one-on-one talks between a parent and a child or among parents and several children. When a husband and wife talk to each other, they are holding a family council.
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On her Facebook page, Primary General President Camille N. Johnson recently shared, “I don’t know about you, but if I had called our family meetings a ‘family council,’ my three sons probably would have fled.
But we had family council—they just didn’t know that’s what we were doing. It typically happened around Sunday dinner, after our Sunday meal together.
I had a big master calendar, and I’d pull it out and we’d go through the week. We identified what each family member had that week, what their responsibilities were, who was going to get them there, whether they were going to have clean socks for it, if they had the poster board or materials they needed to put together their presentation. And we figured out how we were going to help each other accomplish our universal purpose to have a successful week as a family.”
Sister Johnson also asked members of the Church to share how they facilitate family counseling within their own homes. Here are five other ways Latter-day Saints have found ways to hold family councils:
1. In a comment on the post, Lori Parkin Weston shared, “The best ones were when parents knew something needed to be discussed but created a calm time to talk rather than ‘call a meeting.’ I did have almost daily ‘Mommy Meetings.’ Our kids are all grown and I still have some mommy meetings. Car rides with ‘captured’ participants can work. Family walks (or one-on-one walks) were also effective for us.”
2. Jeanine Fisher Crane commented, “When we first began doing family council we called them ‘ice cream meetings.’ We always had ice cream and would have our meeting while they ate! It was the best way to get them to sit at the table while we talked!”
3. Rula Anne Prock said, “My husband and I are empty-nesters. We enjoy our executive council meeting at the baseball park. It works really well.”
4. Jenny Naylor Richards added, “We do it in our outdoor hot tub on Sunday nights! It’s become a tradition that our kids don’t let us miss!”
5. Katie Browning, who has very young children, remarked, “We start with a prayer and then we recognize each child with something they are doing well that month, and we all cheer each other on with a round of applause. The kids get so excited for this part! Then they get a fruit snack, haha. We talk about our family rules and expectations and how we’re doing on them. We discuss how we can serve. We end by reviewing the happenings of the month followed by asking if anyone has anything they need to talk about with the family.”
Whatever your method for making family councils work for your loved ones, remember President Ballard’s promise that we can “find inspired consensus and unity as we counsel together in our families. Only in so doing can our families begin to approach their full potential.”