The Four Keys To A Family-Team Meeting

By Sean McCormick, M. Ed.

Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

Dear Sean: We’ve hired tutors, have a therapist and are in contact with the school, but for some reason, our daughter continues to have low grades and say “I hate school”. What can we do?

-Frustrated in San Rafael

Dear Frustrated in San Rafael: Right now, you have all the pieces in place, but they need to be assembled to “sing” in unison. You need a Family-Team Meeting (FTM).

A Family-Team Meeting is when you get all the key stakeholders and supports in the same room (or Zoom room) and go through a process of identifying what is the shared goal and how everyone can work together to support your daughter to reach that goal.

The key to a successful FTM is that it is run by a skilled facilitator who ensures who everyone has the opportunity to be heard. In my business, I use a simple agenda that works everytime. Here is that agenda:

What is going well? (Everyone shares out)

What is the goal we are working toward?

Who does what and by when?

Schedule the next meeting

I am going to break down

What is going well? (Everyone shares out)

In this part of the meeting everyone shares out something that is going well. Even if it small like, “Rita has been showing up to each of our meetings,” it needs to be shared. Children and struggling youth need to be validated for what they are doing well so they know to do more of it.

If someone starts to veer into criticism, kindly and firmly re-direct them by saying something like, “I am going to pause you there — we will have time to discuss areas for improvement in a few minutes.

What is the goal we are working toward?

This is the hardest part of the meeting. You are likely in this room because everyone wants something different. In this part of the meeting you need to listen to what the parents or school team is sharing, as well as the student, and repeat things back to them.

So what I am hearing is that your parents want you to go to attend class at least 95% of the time and earn “B”s or better in all classes by the second reporting period. Rita, are you willing to work toward that goal?

You’ll want to dedicate the bulk of the meeting to this part. Getting clear on your shared goal is the KEY to making progress toward it. Also, note that you want your goal to be a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely). Having a facilitator lead this meeting who understands this is key.

Who does what and by when?

Once you have agreed upon a goal as a team, the next step is to ask each member of the team what they want to take ownership of. This is where each member of the team can bring their unique strengths to the table. If the goal is to “attend class at least 95% of the time and earn “B”s or better in all classes by the second reporting period,” maybe the therapist will send a daily text message check in; the teacher may track attendance and share out weekly reports; the parents can reward the student if the get 95% attendance for one week in a row. Everyone can help.

Schedule the next meeting

Before you leave, schedule the next meeting! You’ve got everyone in the room — get it done. This will save lot’s of coordination headaches. A good interval of time is one month between Family-Team Meetings. Eventually, they will no longer be necessary, but until then, hold them and start to make progress toward your goal by working as a team.

Want help with this process? Visit Executive Function Specialists

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