Subscribe to our newsletter

Save a Marriage Today

Connect with us

Family Identity, Family Meeting

Family meetings help blended families listen, spend time with each other, and experience being together.
By Ron L. Deal

Corporations have strategy meetings on a regular basis. Department heads, supervisors, and managers get together to discuss current production goals, sales reports, and marketing efforts. The purpose behind such meetings is to generate teamwork and improve efficiency and profit as the whole works toward a common goal.

Family meetings help stepfamilies do the same. The goals are different (integration, spiritual formation, and generating unconditional love and respect), but the process is similar.

Weekly or biweekly family meetings are the perfect time to process emotions and negotiate preferences, rule changes, discipline consequences, and roles in the home. Vacation plans can be made, rituals for the holidays worked out, and feelings of loss and hurt shared. But perhaps the most unexpected result for many stepfamilies that make use of this tool is a sense of identity. The meeting itself becomes a unique tradition that helps family members listen, spend time with each other, and experience their family being together. You can have meetings on a regular basis or periodically as needed.

“We started family meetings by necessity,” one stepfather told me. “We kept running into walls with the kids so we decided to get everyone together and talk about it. In the beginning the meetings were all problem centered. But as time went on we realized that we could be proactive—get ahead of problems—and make things run more smoothly. Now, looking back after a decade of regular family meetings, I can see that it did even more than solve problems. We learned about each other. Listened to each other. And figured out how to be family.”

What is a family meeting?

  • Time set aside to promote meaningful communication and to provide for family discussion, decision making, problem solving, encouragement, and cooperation.
  • Family meetings can be structured and formal or flexible and informal.
  • Everyone has a part and something to contribute. Meetings are democratic; that is, everyone has a voice, but not the same decision-making power. Parents have the final say but should empower children to contribute whenever possible.
  • Ultimately, family meetings build much needed family traditions, create memories, and establish a working family identity.

How do we get started?

  • The process is easier if meetings begin when children are young (age 4 or 5). Older children may have negative reactions at first, but most come to value the process once they experience the benefits.
  • Simply make a decision to start, have a plan of action, and begin.

General guidelines for effective family meetings

  • Make meetings a priority. They should happen at regular, predictable times (e.g., every Thursday night or the first Sunday of the month). Don’t allow distractions to diminish your commitment to the process. Establish and stick to time limits.
  • Begin each meeting with compliments and words of appreciation when they can be offered genuinely. Encouragement facilitates integration but shouldn’t be offered if not sincere.
  • Post an “agenda board” (perhaps on the refrigerator) and encourage everyone to contribute to the list. Be sure each item is discussed and equal consideration given to each concern.
  • Rotate leaders so that children have a turn (your teenagers will love being in charge!).
  • Honor one another’s feelings and opinions. Use your listening skills and speak with respect. Don’t permit meetings to become gripe sessions. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  • Work to find solutions to problem situations. Brainstorm possible solutions and consequences if agreements are not kept. This helps each person take ownership of the problem and its solution. This also clarifies expectations and allows each to experience the stepfamily working together.
  • End the meeting with an enjoyable activity. You all may be together or break into mini-family groups, but have ice cream, play mini-golf, or play board games. Make it fun.


Adapted from The Smart Stepfamily Participant’s Guide © 2014 by Ron L. Deal, Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used with permission. All rights to this material are reserved.

Meet the Author: Ron L. Deal

Ron Deal

Ron Deal is a marriage and family author, conference speaker, and therapist. He is founder and president of Smart Stepfamilies™ and director of FamilyLife Blended™, the ministry initiative of FamilyLife® to stepfamilies (for more visit and 

Ron is author of The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family (and DVD series), The Smart Stepdad, Dating and the Single Parent, The Smart Stepmom (with Laura Petherbridge), and The Smart Stepfamily Marriage: Keys to Success in the Blended Family (with Dr. David Olson). A highly sought-after, recognized expert in marriage and blended families, Ron is a member of the Stepfamily Expert Council for the National Stepfamily Resource Center, and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor with over 25 years experience in local church ministry and family ministry consulting. He is a featured expert on the video curriculum Single and Parenting (2011, Church Initiative) and his material is widely distributed by a variety of family education initiatives

Ron served as a member of the Couple Checkup Research Team (headed by Dr. David Olson, PREPARE-ENRICH) which conducted the two largest studies of marital strength ever accomplished. They surveyed over 100,000 marriages and remarriages (over 200,000 people) and examined the qualitative differences between highly satisfied marriages and low-quality marriages. The results of their groundbreaking research for couples are published in the books The Couple Checkup (Olson, Larson, & Olson-Sigg, 2008) and The Smart Stepfamily Marriage (Deal & Olson, 2015), and are featured in Ron’s newest seminar for dating, engaged, married, and remarried couples, the Couple Checkup Conference.

Ron is a popular conference speaker and has appeared in dozens of national radio and TV broadcasts both in the U.S. and Canada. His daily 60-second radio feature, FamilyLife Blended, is heard by thousands each week around the country and online. He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, ABC’s Nightline, WGN-News, The Mike Huckabee Show, FamilyLife Today, Focus on the Family, HomeWord with Jim Burns, Celebration, and The 700 Club, and his work has been referenced online (e.g.,,, in magazines (e.g., Essence), and in newspapers throughout the world (e.g., USA Today, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal, and Minnesota Star Tribune). The May 2012 issue of Ladies' Home Journal featured Ron's therapy work with a blended family couple in their popular feature column “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” Ron has written feature family articles addressing a variety of family matters for a variety of publications and online magazines including Focus on the Family magazine, ParentLife, The Family Room, Gospel Today, Christianity Today, and HomeLife magazine. On a regular basis Ron trains therapists, marriage educators, and ministry professionals at conferences around the country and has spoken at the National Stepfamily Conference, and the Utah and Arkansas Governors' conferences on the family.

Ron and his wife, Nan, have three boys. Their middle son, Connor, died unexpectedly in February 2009 at the age of 12. In his memory, the Deal's have partnered with Touch a Life Foundation to rescue and rehabilitate children in Ghana, West Africa, from trafficking. They would be honored if you would help them sing Connor's song. Visit Connor's Song to learn more about this ministry and to hear Connor sing.

In addition to FamilyLife sponsored events Ron is available to present his Couple Checkup Conference or Building A Successful Stepfamily conference in your church or community. Learn more here.



Save a Marriage Today

Subscribe to our newsletter