Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Couples Meetings But Didn't Know Who to Ask
Jackson MS USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 37 No. 4, August-September 2001, p. 79.
The most essential ingredient in a successful Couples Meeting is food, and lots of it. In our Group we always start the evening with a potluck supper. Since our Couples Meetings attract many seasoned LLL members who know each other well, we find it helps the fathers to feel more comfortable if they've had a chance to make small talk over lasagna and green bean casserole. The usual complement of babies and toddlers underfoot provides ample fuel for conversation. By the time the food is gone, so are the awkward silences.
After eating, we pull the chairs into a circle and begin the discussion. We use topics that transcend basic breastfeeding and include other aspects of family life, such as loving guidance, communication, child spacing, and lifestyle decisions.
Some of your discussion ideas could fall flat, depending on the composition of that evening's group. And once the discussion does get off the ground, it may last only a short time without encouragement. My experience is that few men participate to the extent that most women do. Also, mothers may make a heroic effort not to participate, so as not to deprive the men of time in the limelight. The silence can be deafening. Try to avoid the temptation to panic and gallop on to the next topic until you are absolutely sure you have a "dead horse" on your hands. I force myself to sit quietly through a slow count of ten, then address a follow-up question to a specific member of the Group, hoping to spur discussion with his or her response.
If things do bog down, avoid self-conscious remarks such as, "I hope I didn't do that badly making up these questions!" It's not your fault. At one Couples Meeting, I was determined to ensure interesting topics by soliciting ideas from the mothers beforehand, but the discussion still lagged. You might ask the Group to choose its own direction or wrap up early and just visit informally. Let flexibility be your key word!
Of course, a structured discussion isn't required. We had a small but successful family party with a potluck supper, simple toddler games, and prizes.
Don't get discouraged if things don't go as well as you had hoped. I asked for evaluations following our last discussion-style Couples Meeting and was heartened to read the glowing comments. I wondered, in fact, if I had attended the same meeting! Remember that the main purpose of a Couples Meeting is to extend the hand of friendship and build community, not necessarily to impart information. So relax and have a good time-and everybody else will too!
Originally appeared in LLL of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana's ALL, Southern Connection, Fall of 1988.
Ideas for Couples Meetings
Leslie Hunten, Tucson AZ USA
Gwen Ward Evans, Tucson AZ USA
Hand out to each person a sheet of 10 items to be prioritized, with number one being his or her highest priority. After prioritizing the list, each person writes down two items from the list they'd like to discuss. The most popular choices become seeds for discussion.
From the group's choices, various discussion questions may be developed. For example,
- Referring to the prioritized list, what have you found helpful in dealing with changes in your lives? How have you and your partner managed these changes?
- What activities do you look forward to doing with your children as they grow?
- What do you look forward to doing with each other as your children grow older?
Originally appeared in LLL of Arizona's Sunshine, Fall of 1990\
The Father's Role
Arden Hills MN USA
We showed three posters regarding the father's role. The first, titled "Pregnancy"' had a sketch of a pregnant couple; the second, called "Childbirth," had a sketch of a husband as a helper during childbirth; and the third, "Breastfeeding," had a picture of a mother breastfeeding with question marks all around her. The purpose of these posters was to show that the father's role is understood in pregnancy and childbirth, but is less well understood during breastfeeding.
We then moved on to a round-robin discussion of what each person enjoyed or appreciated about their partner's role in breastfeeding. After that, we used a conversation-style format to discuss "Positive things we do to make breastfeeding work well for the whole family." We outlined some common concerns (nighttime parenting, intimacy, etc.) and asked the Group, "What are some of the things your family does in these situations to help meet the needs of all involved?"
We handed out THE BREASTFEEDING FATHER, LLLI Information Sheet No. 130.
Originally appeared in LLL of Minnesota and the Dakotas' Northern LLLights, Summer/Fall 1992.
Sharing With Humor
Lancaster PA USA
Glue cartoons from The Other Side Makes Chocolate and We Should Do This More Often to cards after obtaining permission from the copyright holder. Write a related question on the back to encourage discussion among fathers. Everyone shares a chuckle as well as feelings, information, and experiences.
Originally appeared in LLL of Eastern Pennsylvania's East Penn Pointers, Winter 1993.