A few years ago, my mom talked to a married couple that she really respected. They had great adult kids and she wanted to know what they did to be successful parents. The man said that the one practice they did that he felt really helped was called… REFLECTIONS.
Reflections is where their family looked for life lessons and metaphors in everything they did, especially after fun family activities or service projects. They would discuss and apply their family activity to life and the gospel.
After hearing this idea, Chad and I decided to start this tradition in our home. We have been doing it for a few years now on and off, but we want to get more consistent.
We have done “Reflections” after a corn maze, more than one hike, raking leaves, picking up rocks, and our latest “Reflections” was after we toured Jewel Cave in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Here are some of our “Reflections” from our cave experience:
Elle said the that the beginning of the trail was like birth, the path was like our time on earth, and the end of the cave was like heaven. She noted how important it was to stay on the path and hold on to the rails.
I discussed the power of light. Our guide turned off all the lights in the cave for a minute or two. It was pitch black. And then he lit just a small lighter which illuminated the whole cave. It took very little light to cut through intense blackness. It was a powerful reminder that light is more powerful than dark. I explained to the kids that this can be applied to people: one bright example is powerful and can have a big impact in a world full of dark or negative people.
Chad was in charge of Locke throughout the cave tour. As he handled Locke, the words “lead me, guide me, walk beside me” came to his mind. Sometimes he had to carry Locke down steep staircases to keep him safe, sometimes Chad let Locke explore on his own, and sometimes he held his hand as Locke walked right by his side. This is a type and shadow of all parenting, including how Heavenly Father parents us. Sometimes He carries us and sometimes he let’s us explore.
Crew got to be a Jr. Ranger and lead the entire group. (The guide had no idea the danger he was putting us in:) We asked Crew questions about how he felt in this position. We helped Crew recognize about how important his flashlight was and how important it was that he listened to the guide so he knew where to go and when to stop. It is important to follow and listen to the guides in our lives to keep us safe and on the right path.
Croft was happy we were all together through the cave so she wasn’t scared. Family sticks together.
We usually do Reflections as we drive home from our activity. We just have a discussion in the car- not too formal, not too planned. I just ask “What does (insert activity) have to do with life?” or “How does (insert activity) apply to the gospel?” We all share our ideas and the more we do it the more the kids have been able to participate. Most of the time it is just Chad, Elle and I doing the talking with a comment from they younger kids here and there. But we hope that they are getting a good foundation and sound examples and will be able to contribute more as they get older.
One of my favorite memories of “Reflections” is when we did it as a large extended Stenson family after a big hike. We sat around a campfire and shared what we noticed during the hike. The discussion went on for over an hour. Everyone contributed– from the old grandpa 🙂 to the youngest child. I loved hearing the wise perspective of my nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, mom and dad. I was impressed by the depth and breadth of the life applications of this hike.
I still remember my mom’s reflection that she stumbled more on the way down then she did on the way up because she was vigilant on the way up. She watched where she was going and was careful. But on the way down, you think you’ve made it through the hardest part so you ease up and aren’t as diligent. This is a lesson I want to remember.
Hopefully, you get the idea of what a “Reflections” discussion might sound like and what you can learn. I think “Reflections” is a quick, easy and beneficial way to end a family activity. Unity is felt and understanding is increased as thoughts are shared. I am excited to continue our tradition with my children as they get older. I look forward to their increased insights and deeper discussions.