My husband works for a company that does peer reviews. In addition to an annual performance review from managers and supervisors, my husband receives an assessment of interpersonal skills from his peers.
Together the two give him a combined perspective of what managers and peers think about his teamwork, communication, and leadership potential. It is intended to create balance among different points of view. Without input from other people, it’s hard to tell if you’re succeeding, or how you can improve. Knowing this is such an incredible tool in the workplace, I wondered if it was something that would be useful in our home.
I was curious about what my children thought of my husband and me as parents. Is there something that they need from us that we are not providing? Not in material things but love, grace, or affection? Each child is wired differently and processes a unique personality. They have various love languages, so even though we think we might be loving them well, they may not think so.
I also questioned what they thought about each other. When I am not around, are my kids treating each other well? Does their behavior reflect our family’s mission or values?
I love team building activities and personal development, so the thought of discussing these things made me giddy. Conversations like this don't just happen on their own, so I knew we’d need to set a time and create an environment where our kids felt safe to share. It would require intention and focus from all of us. So I planned a family retreat.
How I prepared:
>>Designed a family version of a 360 Peer Review
I created packets for each of us that included questions about themselves, our family as whole, and individual members. You can download them for FREE when you SUBSCRIBE.
>>Booked a hotel
We found a great deal on Groupon for a two-day, two-night hotel stay. It was located only 20 minutes from our home, close to restaurants and shopping, and had a pool.
>>We packed the usual stuff plus:
Pens and pencils
A board game
Water bottles and snacks
What we did:
>>Alternate family building discussions with activities and special treats
The first evening we went to dinner, filled out one of the questionnaires and discussed. Then we checked into the hotel, went swimming, and played a board game. In the morning, we filled out another survey and found a local park to share our answers. Eventually, we needed a break, so we played a game and then some talked more. Afterward, we went to Starbucks for Frappuccinos, followed by more swimming, more discussion, dinner, and mini-golf.
We had our fair share of squabbles but for the most part, our time together was wonderful. The kids were excited about our weekend mostly because we were staying in a hotel and there was a pool. Our children also enjoyed having our undivided attention.
What Would I Do Different:
>>Keep discussions to 30/45 minutes
I was overly optimistic about my children’s attention span. The kids were thrilled to fill out the questionnaires but lost focus ¾ of the way through our discussions. I knew well enough to break up talking together with activities. However, the pace of our discussions mattered too. Instead of each family member discussing what they thought about each other in depth, we instituted a lightning round. I read a question, and we took turns quickly answering them, occasionally citing examples to explain.
>>Research restaurants and activities in the area
Thanks to technology and phone apps we managed to find local restaurants in the area we liked but selecting them beforehand would have saved time. We found a park to hang out in, play ball, and talk, but not until after driving around for a while. Also, planning an excursion such as biking, hiking, canoeing, or geocaching would have been fun and enabled us to cross something off our summer bucket list.
>>Create a schedule and stick to it
As I mentioned above, I loosely knew what I wanted to do, but that wasn’t enough. Designating pockets of time for both discussions and activities would have helped me see just how much time we needed for the retreat. As a family of five, we had a lot to talk about. We got off to a late start that first day, and it prevented us from finishing everything we wanted to do.
>>Organize the data
I expected most of the feedback we heard. We saw consistent ways in which everyone wanted our family to improve: bickering less and not being late all the time. (Yikes!) The kids seem to love the same things: spending time with us and each other (Yeah!). We were also surprised by what they wanted from us, “Push me to learn and manage my time better.” “Be more strict [to help me meet my goals].” and “Tell me to practice more.”
Hubby and I plan to review the assessments and organize it in a way that will be useful and not forgotten. Once we find the common threads in the responses, we will develop a plan for where improvement is needed and continue to sow into the areas where we are doing well.
In six months we plan to have one-on-one “dates” with our each of our kids to check in and see how things are going? Are we still struggling as a family to get along, to be on time? Are mommy and daddy stepping up in the areas they’d like us to? How are they doing developing the character traits we discussed?
>>Save the date for the 2017 Family Retreat
This was a positive experience for all of us. We had a ton of fun together, but most importantly each of us was given a voice to express what often goes unsaid. Our family did not radically change overnight, but we are making little changer over time. The key to this family retreat having a lasting impact on our family is continuing these conversations through the year and follow up.
I’d love to hear if you have family retreats or if you have discovered another way to guide your family towards its mission and vision.