If you can't get enough control of your family's schedule so that everyone can sit down together for dinner, it's a good idea to schedule a weekly family meeting. The meeting can be as short as 20 minutes but shouldn't run over an hour. Create an agenda by posting a sheet on the refrigerator so anyone can note a topic to discuss. A parent should serve as the leader at the outset; then children can take turns when they understand the process. With help, even young children can have turns being in charge.
Appoint someone who is old enough to write to take the minutes by recording any decisions that are made. Try to get everyone to give an opinion on each subject. Since younger children are so easily swayed by older family members, make it a policy to have the youngest member of the household give his opinion first on any issue.
Family meetings can be used to plan family vacations, divvy up chores, and solve problems that have cropped up during the week. Should your six-year-old be allowed to ride her bike in the street? Should your teenager go out for football even though his grades are poor? What can be done to help your tween who is being bullied on the playground? Should the family go to the zoo or the park this weekend?
Even three-year-olds can make amazingly astute comments on these issues. Parents will need to make the final decision regarding many issues, but as everyone provides input, it helps the family pull together.