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September 29, 2011 - Image 50

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-09-29

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Your Most Important Meeting This Week

How a simple clan confab can affect positive change.

By Rebecca Zusel, LMSW

ou take immense pride in arriving 15
minutes early to every appointment. Your
schedule is so well organized that each
child's respective activities are color-coded.
Most times, your day functions fairly seam-
lessly and when it doesn't, you acknowledge
human frailty and can let it go.
Yet, most children don't yet possess those
types of organizational skills, nor do they
play a substantive role in generating their
own schedules. From their perspective, they
are often schlepped from bed to school,
then activities or sports, a hurried dinner
and — hopefully — a nice shower and bed.
There often isn't much discussion or input
given by children; mostly the parent is just
trying not to be late for the next activity.
What if one simple change in how we ran
our family life could lead to an overall better
functioning of the family unit?
It's called the weekly family meeting: a
standing meeting, each week, which allows
members an opportunity to reflect on the
week's events, share news and express
concerns. It also is an opportune time to
announce schedule changes, like changes in
bedtime or homework schedules.
For example, if Mom, who had previously
been home in the evening, plans to take a
night job, the family's routine will be chang-
ing. Rather than finding the "right"time to
share the news, a scheduled family meeting
provides the perfect forum to introduce the
news. Gathering around as a family, with all
members attending, is a great opportunity
for everyone to give input and discuss their
feelings. This could reduce the possibility of
unnecessary anxiety.
Sometimes, changes that may seem small
or simple to adults are huge disruptions for
children. Having the opportunity to discuss
upcoming events in a neutral setting, with
consistent regularity, is both useful and
important for children. Their knowing that




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A for Art . . . F for Functionality

Jeffrey Schwartz uses rock icons
to teach toddlers the fundamentals.

By Yoni Apap

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10 October 2011 I

REBECCA ZUSEL, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social



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they have the meeting to look forward to
is stress reducing in itself, especially if they
have something to share that might not be
so favorable.
In addition, it's not just parents who
should contribute to the family meeting;
children often have thoughts they want to
share. Older children may use this time to
ask for more privileges or something special
— or to share their not-so-great progress re-
port. (Go easy on them in that case because
if they are waiting for this time to discuss
it, they are obviously anxious about your
There are a couple of key points to keep in
mind for your family meeting:
°Try and keep it around the same time
every week; consistency is really important if
you want the benefits to stand out.
°Children under 5 are really too young to
contribute in a meaningful way.
Mealtime is a good opportunity to hold
your meeting; it guarantees the family is
together since everyone has to eat.
Make sure everyone has a chance to
speak. Even if your home isn't really a
democracy, this meeting should be run like
When we sit down and ask our children
how their week went or if there is something
they want to discuss, we are validating their
feelings. Validation helps children build
coping skills and, most importantly, nurtures
their self-confidence.
Confident children do better in social situ-
ations, ask questions in school when they
don't know the answer and are willing to
take on more challenging tasks.

ieffrey Schwartz's The Rock & Roll
Alphabet (Mojo Hand LLC; $14.95;
60 pp) claims to teach kids their ABCs
while introducing them to classic rock
performers. Only on the latter count
does it definitely deliver.
Schwartz relies
heavily on the re-
cently rediscovered
cache of photographs
from the late Chuck
Boyd, whose gorgeous,
intimate portraits of
stars from the '60s and
'70s had been lost since
the artist's death in
The recently redis-
covered collection, for
which Schwartz serves
as archive director, is ar-
guably a treasure trove.
For adult fans of vintage
rock — from Aretha
Franklin to Frank Zappa — the book can
be a fun way to feel like they are teaching
their kids while reminiscing.
The question is whether it reaches its

intended audience. Those expecting a
functional teaching tool should consider
looking elsewhere. Most of the prints
are in black and white, which captures
intimate moments but not
a toddler's eye.
What does grab their
attention confuses: My
3-year-old felt that a
smiling, poncho-clad
and heavily bearded
Jerry Garcia looked like a
"bad guy who played bad
As for the accompa-
nying text, the rhymed
couplets are pedestrian
and occasionally strained,
and the content of the text
("G is for the Grateful Dead,
a band that loved to jam ...")
is often so general that it fails to say
much at all. Often, the book fails to con-
nect the letters with concrete objects and
may even confuse children in multiple
ways (e.g.,"X is for Tsex, Bang a Gong, Get
it On"... ?).


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