COUNCILS WITH SINGLE PARENT FAMILIES The single parent has a particular challenge. The Family Council is a significant aid in this family. Why? Because the parent can make maximum benefit of his/her influence by organizing through the council the routine of family life. Hours are very limited to a single parent. The council can aid by involving all family members in the support of the family and individual members. Some single parents with one child may feel each association with the child is a Family Council experience. A meeting, however, held at a special time and place, with prayer, has a far more meaningful impact on young family members. Single parent families need special support from one another in all aspects of family and individual growth. Each can realize that he helps build a home, a needed place of loving refuge from the world.
Many of these single parent homes are managed by women. In 1982, 15.4% of 61, 393,000 families in the US were maintained by women (WP NOV '83) [i] 2015 43% of single parent families are women.
Many single parents are so "busy" that they may fail to put “first things first” to accomplish the work of perfection of the children. With Family Councils the family can organize to support itself under the influence of the Spirit. A single woman with two young boys and a new member of the Church came to visit me at our mutual work location one day on a work related issue. I asked how her family was. She responded that she was overwhelmed with work, family and now Church duties. We discussed the Family Council concept and agenda and how her boys who were nearing their teens could be part of the solutions by working together as a team. She had a solution. It worked! She came back to me several weeks later and told me of the peace and organization the Family Council had brought. She had shared what she had learned with a number of other single parents that were her friends. They were all interested in employing the concepts of a Family Council.
COUNCILS WITH STEP FAMILIES Blended/step families also have special challenges uniting families coming from different backgrounds. The Family Council can be a very useful tool in framing the new unit. It can provide the vehicle for open communication on a whole range of issues from family rules to support and love one another. There may be some resistance from family members who have not been involved in Family Councils before. But persistence and love will win and help unit the new unit. When family members see that attending and participating is in their self-interest, they will generally support the Family Council concept.
<a name="PARENTS WORKING"> </a> COUNCILS WITH BOTH PARENTS WORKING Economic pressures have forced many women out of the home. Other women work out of the home by choice. The challenge I felt years ago as a father was having my influence felt by the children even though I was not there all the time. Did the children know how dad felt on an issue? This is even more of a problem if neither mother nor father is around the children to support them and help teach correct principles and values as they understand them. Children learn to value where their parents stand on moral issues and values. While the Family Council is not the total solution for this problem, it can help bond the family and make time together more meaningful through careful planning.
<a name="YOUNG COUPLES"> </a> COUNCILS WITH YOUNG COUPLES A couple constitutes a Family Council. The important point is setting aside the time to do it. Some may say, that there is only the two of us and we "Council" together all the time. I would ask: "Do you begin with prayer and ponder issues of eternal consequences together with God?" We need to council in His way. Family Council could be included as part of a Family Home Evening or as a separate event for couples. Making Councils a part of a special Friday date night is also an option. Councils can be a great Sunday activity. Family Councils could also be held before or after scripture reading once a week. The important point is to have a special time set aside to meet- husband, wife and Lord, and to do it.
<a name="SINGLE ADULTS"> </a> COUNCILS WITH SINGLE ADULTS Single adults also need the Family Council concept. The council and agenda can also be used for independent planning of the week with just an individual and the Lord involved. The Family Council can be used if two or more single adults share the same house or apartment. It was a delightful experience when our oldest daughter called from college and said, "DAD! Please send the Family Council agenda. We need some order in the apartment!" We sent the agenda and it was used regularly. The other children have had similar experiences as they have been out on their own in apartment groups or singly. <a name="ONE PARENT"> </a> COUNCILS WITH ONLY ONE PARENT INTERESTED This is a major challenge when only one parent is interested in having Family Councils! This could be for many reasons. (List) The Family Council concept should be discussed together between the parents. If one partner is not interested in Family Councils report back on the council or perhaps they may just sit in the room. Watching what is happening. This will in many cases bring them to the quick realization of the impact the council is having on other family members. Try it for a month. Pray to see and feel the difference Our experience is that in most cases that other parent will over time be convinced of the value of the council as a family management tool.
<a name="UNAVAILABLE"> </a> COUNCILS WHEN A PARENT IS UNAVAILABLE A big challenge is if the family work situation does not allow all the Family Council members to be together at a time convenient. Here again discussion among the parents before and after the meeting is most helpful. Share direction and decision of the Family Council so the absent parent’s ideas and values are included. Perhaps the date/time of the meeting could be changed once a month to engage the other parent in the FC. Modern communication technology now makes it possible to connect where separation such a military deployment or extended business trips carries one parent miles away. We have used “SKYPE” software to communicate with camera & voice over the internet with families and grandchildren that are in distance locations. This software and others like it are also very good for group and multi family project discussions. Children need to know that parents are acting in unity. They also need to know how both parents feel about issues. The law of witnesses (two or more person in agreement) is very critical in family development. Children need to see this.
<a name="TEENS"> </a> STARTING COUNCILS WITH TEENS Many families live together until the children reach teenage years before recognizing some of the problems in family life. It may be very difficult for teenagers to recognize the value and participate in Family Councils if they have not grown up with the idea and use. There are several keys to the success of a Family Council that do not begin until the children are teenagers: A. Share at an adult level the need and value of the council with the teen. B. Let the teen know they are valued and welcome in the council. C. Give them meaningful jobs in the council. D. Make Family Council enjoyable even fun. E. Be sure to have open discussion, don't criticize any idea. F. Remind them that all rules apply to all family members even if they are not a part of the meeting where the decisions were made. If our children missed a meeting, they get a recap from other family members or they find themselves "out of it" for the week not knowing what is going on.
<a name="SMALL CHILDREN"> </a> COUNCILS WITH SMALL CHILDREN Our experience with small children is that they love the Family Councils but the councils need to be short. They like to participate and share concerns. Our records show our first council was 20 minutes in length. For a number of years they did not ever go more than 30 minutes. We started the Family Councils when our oldest was seven. There were four other younger children. We have friends who have tried to involve their child who is just over one year. Simply having an infant or very young child in the room as parent’s council together creates a pattern and atmosphere they will except as they are old enough to participate. Children respond to the council setting. We modified the agenda to always discussed children’s concerns right after making family assignments while we still had their attention. We find that our small children, though not totally involved in the discussion, enjoy being in the room playing with a quiet game or activity. We draw them in when items are of interest to them. Our recommendation is involve the children early in Family Councils and let them grow up being an active part of your councils. <a name="OLDER ADULTS"> </a> COUNCILS AS OLDER ADULTS – “EMPTY NESTER” The role of Family Councils extends beyond having children in the home. As children leave the nest, there is still years of living for many “couples”. The concepts and principles of the Family Council still apply in calendaring family events with children & grandchildren, providing special support in times of needs, planning larger events like family gatherings, missions, and reunions. Even though the children are out of the home, parent can continue to encourage and support them in life mission tasks. Mortal life’s perfecting activities are not over until life is over. In fact, the extended family may require more communication and planning than the original council. Grandparents can provide critical support to both children and grandchildren Grandparents can: A. Encourage Family Councils in children homes and take interest in their council activities. B. Have Family Councils with them when they are at home for visits C. Plan activities to strengthen family ties like reunions, vacations and special grandparent trips 1 Planning independent and small group activities for the grand children We have used the councils to discuss the needs of individual family groups and special events for the grandchildren. Like the Saturday spent riding the rapid transit train with the grandchildren and seeing the sites of the city. Or the special day out with each of the local grandchildren for birthday. The Zoo events have always been special. A road trip with older grandchildren. 2 Family reunions and special events/vacations As our children have started their own families the ability to get together on a routine bases has become more of a challenge. The older children wanted to start our own family reunions. We had some success in getting the children in a rotation to have Christmas with us. But as the children become order it is more of a logistical challenge. We have now added family reunions every two years in the summer. The family reunions take a year+ to plan to meet the needs and interests of all family members. Not all reunions require large expense. Counseling at a distance can work with letters, emails and online conferencing to augment phone calls. Also, vacations with the grandchildren can be wonderful. Use the extended Family Council principles for coordination and planning done with the families and grandchildren involved. These events need to be planned nearly a year ahead to clear family calendars Our trip with two different family groups of grandchildren to the Black Hills in South Dakota have been such events. Caution: Be careful not to over step the role of your children’s parenting role. You need to know & support each family units’ policies and rules[ii]
In Summary, The Family Council helps meet the needs of ALL God’s children. The mission of the Church – to perfect the Saints, proclaim the Gospel/Serve Others and redeem the dead is the need of all mankind. All people regardless of their family situation need to review and plan ways of meeting their family needs in these areas. We are all a part of God’s family and can have significant influence with others of God children with extended family and friends. [i] Stat ref [ii] Fay, Jim & Cline, Foster W., Grandparenting with Love & Logic, p 79