Parent guilt is real.
If only I could have...(fill in the blank). Then, my child would...(fill in the blank).
But the truth is, it is always possible to build a powerful, transformative bond with your child, however, it does take an investment on your part.
I recently received this message from a subscriber to our weekly email list that inspired me to create this blog:
How can parents repair relationships with older teens/adults with ADHD, now that we know better, we can do better, but some damage was done in the chaos of the high school years
As a parent, balancing the desire to give my children the quality time they deserve and need, while also meeting the demands of running a business is challenging!
Luckily, I was introduced to the concept of the Family Board Meeting by Thinkific CEO, Greg Smith, and I have been using it ever since.
In doing so, I hope to reduce the possibility of damaging interactions that may occur as my children enter their tween and teen years, while building a strong family legacy I can be proud of.
Today, I will walk you through this process, which I have been using with my children, so that you can use it to repair and revitalize relationships with your children that may have been damaged during those challenging teens years when everything felt overwhelming.
It only takes an investment of four hours every 90 days and will pay off for the rest of your life.
Ready to learn more?
What is a Family Board Meeting (FBM)?
A Family Board Meeting (FBM) is a dedicated time for parents to connect with their children one-on-one, away from daily distractions and technology. It's a simple yet effective way to make each child feel important, strengthen family bonds, and create lasting memories.
The concept comes from the book, The Family Board Meeting: You Have 18 Summers to Create Lasting Connection with Your Children, by Jim Sheils.
Planning an FBM is easy and the activities chosen are designed to be engaging and fun, ensuring authentic interaction and deeper relationships within the family.
This approach is a strategic investment in the family’s emotional well-being and a step towards building a meaningful family legacy.
Why are Family Board Meetings so important?
Family Board Meetings are vital because they help prioritize what truly matters in life: our relationships with loved ones.
When you reflect back on your life, it's not the extra hours at the office that will stand out; it's the precious moments and deep connections you've formed with your family. Remember, the only person who truly feels the impact of those additional hours at work is your child.
To underscore this, consider the poignant lyrics from Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle":
My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking 'fore I knew it, and as he grew
He'd say "I'm gonna be like you, dad"
These words serve as a powerful reminder that time not spent with your children is lost forever and that they will cherish the moments you choose to be present with them over any material or professional accomplishments.
How do Family Board Meetings help repair relationships with older children?
Family Board Meetings offer a dedicated opportunity for deliberate engagement with older children, signaling the importance of the parent-child relationship and providing a platform for open, honest communication.
They create a space for families to address and heal from past misunderstandings, building trust through consistent interaction and shared goal-setting. These meetings also allow for empathy to flourish as each person’s perspective is heard, fostering mutual understanding.
By partaking in enjoyable activities, families craft new, positive memories, further strengthening their bonds and helping to repair and rejuvenate relationships.
How to set up a Family Board Meeting
Before the meeting
Reach out to your child and ask them to think about an activity they'd enjoy doing with you. It could be anything from:
A walk in the park
Going to a museum
Going for a hike
The Family Board Meeting should span approximately four hours to ensure it transcends merely passing time together. This duration allows you and your child to transition from the initial greetings and surface-level conversations to a more relaxed state where authentic interaction can occur.
Go for a hike (2 hours)
Grab food together (90 minutes)
Reflect on the outing and plan the next (30 minutes)
A four-hour window opens up the possibility for deeper discussions, shared experiences, and meaningful engagement without the pressure of a looming end time. It provides ample opportunity to 'hang out', letting natural conversation and connection unfold organically.
This unhurried, quality time is crucial for building and nurturing the bonds that form the foundation of a strong, lasting relationship.
During the Meeting
Start by reaffirming the significance of their choice. You might say:
“You’ve chosen [activity], and I think that’s a fantastic idea because it’s something you enjoy, and it’ll make our time together even more special.”
During the meeting, just focus on going with the flow and having fun with your child. Children are masters of having fun and allow their imaginations to run wild. Use this time to learn from them.
Engage with the activity they’ve chosen with genuine interest and participation. This is key to building trust and showing that their interests and decisions are respected and valued.
By centering your child’s choice in the meeting, you validate their preferences and autonomy, strengthening their executive skill making abilities and showing them you respect their ideas.
Rules for the meeting
There are a few rules for the meeting that will allow you to deliver the most value and have the greatest chance at strengthening your bond with your child.
No cell phones
At the beginning of the meeting, it’s important to set the tone for attentiveness and focus. You might start by addressing your child directly and with intention, saying something like:
“I want to make sure our time together is free from distractions and that you have my full attention. So I’m putting my phone on airplane mode. This way, we won't be interrupted by calls or messages. I’ll keep it nearby only so we can use it to take pictures if we want to capture any moments.”
This action demonstrates that your priority is the present moment with them, fostering a sense of importance and respect for the process and for their participation.
Your child chooses the activity
Allowing your child to choose the activity for the Family Board Meeting serves two crucial purposes:
One, it gives them a sense of control and value within the family dynamic. For individuals with ADHD, especially older teens or adults who might have felt misunderstood or marginalized, this empowerment can be particularly affirming.
Two, when participants have a say in the proceedings, they’re more likely to be engaged and invested in the outcome.
Just you and your child
One-on-one time between a parent and child is an invaluable facet of relationship building, particularly in the context of ADHD where individual needs and interactions can be more nuanced.
This dedicated time ensures that the child receives undivided attention and acknowledgment, establishing a safe and personal space for open communication. It’s during these moments that a child can feel truly seen and heard, without the dynamics or distractions that may come with group settings.
It creates an environment where the child is free to express themselves, explore their thoughts and feelings, and connect deeply without competing for attention. This focused interaction can lead to stronger bonds, improved understanding, and a sense of security and importance that nurtures their self-esteem and reinforces their value within the family.
How to document your Family Board Meetings
Documenting your Family Board Meetings can be a meaningful way to reflect on your experiences and share special memories down the road when your children are older.
Here’s a simple process to capture the essence of your meetings:
1. Set up a Family Board Meeting journal
Choose a medium that works best for your family, such as a physical notebook, a digital document, or a dedicated app. I use the journaling app Day One, to document my Family Board Meetings.
2. Record the date, activity and key reflections
At the top of a new entry, write down the meeting date. Below that, describe the activity you did together, focusing on the shared experience as a family.
When was it?
Saturday, October 21, 2023
What did we do?
Attended the Maker Faire on Mare Island in Vallejo. Spent the day exploring and engaging with the exhibits.
What were our top reflections and highlights?
“Aleanna said she loved ‘everything’ about the day, especially ‘going in the dark.’
Dad’s highlight was soldering Aleanna’s Maker Faire pin on her robot, enjoying the craft and the shared achievement.”
3. Include visuals
If you’ve taken photos during the activity (remembering the phone is on airplane mode to avoid distractions), select a few to print and attach to the journal or add to the digital document.
4. Schedule your next Family Board Meeting in the next 90 days
Scheduling the next Family Board Meeting within a 90-day period ensures the event remains a highlighted occasion without losing its unique appeal or momentum.
It creates a sense of anticipation and excitement, making it something tangible for your child to look forward to. This time frame is short enough to keep the energy and intentions from the last meeting fresh, yet long enough to give each person the space to implement changes and reflect on progress.
Regularity in these meetings reinforces their importance, offering a consistent opportunity for family members to connect, address challenges, and celebrate achievements.
To optimize the impact of setting the date, involve your child in the decision-making process, allowing them to feel a sense of ownership over the family's plans.
Introduce visual reminders, like a family calendar or a countdown, to keep the date present in everyone's minds, building a sense of collective anticipation.
Discussing potential activities for the next meeting can also serve as a teaser, sparking curiosity and eagerness. Moreover, by reflecting on the positive experiences post-meeting, you and your child can share a mutual appreciation for these special times, creating an earnest desire to experience that shared joy once again.
Do's and Don't of the Family Board Meeting Process
Do Involve Your Partner or Spouse
Always include your partner or spouse from the start. When I initiated these meetings, I planned directly with my daughter, which unintentionally left my wife feeling out of the loop.
Collaborating as a parenting team is crucial to foster inclusivity and ensure both parents are aligned on objectives and methods. This shared approach strengthens the family dynamic and models cooperative planning for your children.
Don’t Treat the Meeting Like an Experiment
Avoid mentioning that the Family Board Meeting is a technique or strategy you read about in a book. This could make your child feel like a subject in an experiment rather than a valued participant in a family activity.
Instead, introduce the meeting as a natural part of family life, creating an organic and sincere experience. This approach emphasizes the meeting's purpose as a genuine effort to enhance family connection and communication.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I do a FBM on a school day?
You can schedule a Family Board Meeting (FBM) on a school day. Taking your child out of school for a few hours once a quarter can be a valuable lesson in prioritizing family connections.
It serves as a tangible demonstration that, while education is important, making time for family is also a vital aspect of life. This can help break the pattern many adults fall into, where work or school attendance becomes an inflexible commitment, often at the expense of personal and familial well-being.
By doing so thoughtfully and sparingly, you communicate to your child that there’s a healthy balance to be struck between responsibilities and relationships.
Can we watch TV or a movie together during the FBM?
A Family Board Meeting should be an interactive and engaging experience that fosters direct communication and personal connection, which is why simply watching a screen together doesn't suffice.
Screen time, by nature, is passive and doesn't require active participation or reciprocal interaction between family members. It creates a shared focus on an external stimulus rather than on each other, limiting the opportunity for in-depth conversation, expression of emotions, and the nuanced exchange that strengthens bonds.
The essence of a Family Board Meeting is to give undivided attention to one another, creating a space where family members can feel heard, valued, and connected without the barriers that screens can impose. It’s about making each other the priority, rather than allowing digital content to dictate the quality and depth of your interaction.
The Family Board Meeting transcends the ordinary, evolving into a heartfelt pledge to the enduring bonds we cherish with our children.
As we navigate the complexities of parenting—often accentuated in the whirlwind of ADHD—the FBM emerges as a beacon of hope. It invites us to set aside the 'what-ifs' and guilt, offering a dynamic space to heal and reinforce our relationships with our older children.
Tackling the friction that arises from necessary but exhausting parental reminders, executive function coaching can aid in the transformation you are directing. This collaborative partnership alleviates the pressure of academic management, empowering you to reclaim the joy and essence of parenting.
With an EF coach's bespoke strategies and insights, your child gains the skills to thrive independently, freeing you to immerse in the spontaneous and deep connections that FBMs cultivate. The aim is to establish a harmonious balance where educational growth and familial ties flourish side by side.
If you're ready to transform your family dynamics, lessen the stress of parenting, and lay the groundwork for a legacy of love and understanding, we invite you to discover how executive function coaching can be the cornerstone of this new chapter.
If you would like to learn more about how working with an executive function coach can transform your parenting experience, reduce parental frustration, and create a better family dynamic, reach out today to book your free consultation.
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About the author
Sean G. McCormick is the founder of Executive Function Specialists, an online coaching business that guides middle, high school, and college students in overcoming procrastination, disorganization and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization, and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered. He also founded the Executive Function Coaching Academy which trains special education teachers, school psychologists and other professionals to support students with ADHD and executive function challenges. He lives in Petaluma with his wife and two daughters.