Q of the Week : How does your family communicate?

The Talking StickI grew up in a family that ate together, prayed together, and often worked together, so almost all our communication was in person.  It happened in the car, around the dinner table, or at the kitchen counter.  I honestly don’t remember my mom ever raising her voice either.  The subjects were rarely heavy, and hardly ever confrontational.  Unpleasant or difficult conversations were rare … they just didn’t happen.  Once I was a teenager, I would very occasionally get a note left on my desk that explained how my mom felt about some of my choices, referring of course to the things she didn’t like.  So there was a lot of conversation, and basic communication, but rarely on an emotional level.

My house is NOT like this.  We yell a lot, feelings are very visible and often talked about, and we sometimes hunt each other down to argue out/resolve our differences.  My husband and I text a lot, but primarily to hash out plans.  The kids are young enough that they don’t have any tools other than their voices, which they use quite vociferously!  We don’t email or facebook each other, unless it’s me forwarding him a link to check out.  With one shared computer it’s not exactly possible to IM each other, and I usually have the laptop under my fingers anyhow. 

We’ve recently instituted something that my husband grew up with, and he comes from a family that (still) talks openly (and often) about just about everything.  We started calling family meetings about once every 2-3 weeks.  It’s a chance for the four of us to formally lay out expectations and praise, air grievances, discuss dreams, and divvy up chores.  We have a “talking stick” that’s a gnarled old branch with four feathers bound to it, which must be held by anyone wishing to speak.  At eight and four, the kids are just old enough to get a kick out of that aspect, and are slowly getting the idea that words can be precious.  There are no rules other than the talking stick, but we occasionally will break up a filibuster attempt by Fynn.  I hope it helps us keep the lines of communication open as they grow older!

For Michael and I, we carve out at least 20 minutes every night after the kids are in bed, usually on the porch, and vent/download/share our days.  If he’s not home, we do it by phone … it’s probably the most unbending part of our schedule, other than alone nights.  We hardly ever relax together as there doesn’t seem to be time, but that 20 minutes makes a huge difference in how connected I feel to him.

So how do you communicate with your family?  Often, hardly ever, electronically, exhaustedly in the wee hours, texting, or in person?  What would you change about it if you could?