If you are living with one or more other people in your home, you may have experienced one of the following scenarios:
It’s Wednesday evening. You’ve just finished dinner and are clearing the table when there’s a knock at the door. You answer and standing on the doorstep is the neighbor family you had planned to have for dessert—NEXT Wednesday. “No, honey,” your spouse says. “Remember? We changed the date. Didn’t you write it on the calendar?” “Which calendar?” you think. “The one in your office or the one in mine?” Amid smiles and confusion, you invite the neighbors in for a stale cookie—there would have been fresh ones next week—and vow to figure out how to keep this from happening again.
Or, as you’re falling into bed at night, you remember that your spouse’s friend called to ask for help moving—two days ago. And move day is tomorrow! You forgot to deliver the message because there wasn’t anything by the phone to write the message down on. There never is. You wonder how many important messages may not have made it to you and vow to go out in the morning to buy a supply of Post-its and a package of pens, hoping that somehow it will help.
Miscommunications and missed communications seem to be part and parcel of family life. There is, thankfully, a way to avoid the frustration created by scenarios such as these. The solution to some of your communication disconnects is a family communication center.
A family communication center is a place you’ve designated for coordinating your calendar items, posting messages, displaying special cards or children’s artwork and housing your paper flow system as well as files that may need to be accessed by all family members. When establishing a family communication center, try to place it in a high-traffic area, such as the kitchen or family room, so that everyone has ready access to the information posted and stored there.
Here are some suggestions for what to include in your family communication center. Keep in mind that these are guidelines; you can tailor your communication center to meet your family’s needs. Some basic elements include—
- A bulletin board to display cards and messages.
- A calendar with all family and individual activities.
- A phone message center. Use carbon copy phone pads so you always have a copy of messages taken and make sure you have a supply of pens.
- Your paper flow system and at least two file drawers so all family members know where to find specific pieces of paper. As it relates to your paper flow system, your family communication center is the place you will likely process school papers that come home with your children. You can also have in-boxes for each member of your family to house incoming paper, such as mail. (For guidelines on each of these systems, refer to my archived articles for September through November of 2007.)
The benefits of a family communication center are numerous, but here are two of the most important:
Your family members won’t be angry or frustrated with each other for forgetting to pass along information! Although miscommunications will still occur, a family communication center greatly reduces their frequency. Members of the household are more likely to receive communications from the outside world in a timely manner, whether they arrive by phone or by mail, because you will have created a system to make sharing information easier.
With a family communication center, not only will you be able to keep track of when you’re entertaining the neighbors, you will more importantly be able to create a supportive family environment. Everyone will know when your youngest daughter’s dance recital is. And everyone will know which night your oldest son is in the school play. By using a central calendar, you can also accurately assess how full your life is so you don’t overextend (as often).
Best of luck as you create a communication area for your family. I hope you experience rich benefits!