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Lorna McGrath
Lorna McGrath, MEd, is Director of IMC School Accreditation, Program Director of the Montessori Family Alliance, and Senior Consultant of The Montessori Foundation. Lorna has 41 years of experience in the field of education, teaching children from 18 months through 6 years old and from 12 through 18 years old in both public schools and independent Montessori schools. Lorna is a Montessori teacher educator, conference presenter, and school consultant. She can be reached at lornamcgrath@montessori.org.

During the first weeks of the pandemic, The Montessori Foundation began to hold free zoom meetings for parents struggling with a variety of issues.Here is a short review of the Montessori Parent Gathering from April 4, 2020. The presenter was Lorna McGrath, Director of The Montessori Family Alliance.

  • Family meetings fulfill many needs for parents, children and anyone else living under the same roof such as:
  • showing commitment to the family unit by all;
  • being a vehicle for problem-solving issues within the family;
  • brain-storming ideas or solutions to issues impacting the family,
  • giving everyone an equal voice;
  • showing respect for everyone in the family;
  • showing appreciation for everyone in the family; and
  • creating a special time that is just for family.

Now, add in the stress of a pandemic, children being cooped up week after week, parents trying to figure out how to work at home and help their children do their homework and you have the perfect conditions for some tense scenes. In her Parenting Puzzle online course for parents, Lorna highly encourages weekly family meetings. Should you not already be doing this, try doing it now so you can help all through this period of time. By the time it’s over a routine will be in place and you will understand why you should keep it going for a long, long time.

Here are some suggestions as to how to institute and structure the meetings:

  • discuss with your parenting partner first (make certain you are both clear as to why you are doing this);
  • try to speak with a unified voice. There’s plenty of opportunity to express different points of view, but for the sake of establishing the idea of the meetings, it better that you are both coming from a common place; and decide who will run the first meeting.

For your first meeting:

  • review the purpose;
  • set aside a set time and day of week ahead of other things;
  • have a very short agenda; and
  • review the process of a facilitator.

The meetings themselves:

  • should not be long (10 to 15 minutes);
  • need to be a safe space for all;
  • include all family members. Even a babe in arms can be held during the meeting. Baby’s create rhythms of their own and will grow up with the meeting being a normal part of family life.

Once you have the family gathered:

  • take turns (you all get to decide how you want to structure that) being the facilitator. The facilitator keeps you on track with the agenda;
  • everyone agrees to have his or her devices out of earshot;
  • agree on a day and time when you stop adding items to the agenda. You may not get to all items, so if it can wait, move it to the next week. If it’s an emergency, you might have to figure out something that works for the situation; and
  • when the meeting concludes, the facilitator gets to choose a short activity for all to do and all participate. (Lorna recommends not having meeting over meals so you keep the structure intact.)

Use this opportunity to really create a stronger family environment with your children. Not that we would wish this situation on anyone, but if you must be sequestered in place, we think this could create one of those silver lining moments for you and your family.