Don't miss this crucial stage of the Family Adventure. It's easy to overlook, but you'll gain so much if you give this part some good attention. (Part 4 of 5)
Now you find yourself back in familiar territory. It’s been at least 10 days or perhaps much more time away. In some ways, the “Family Adventure” you had been building up to all along is now over.
Or, is it?
In this fourth part of our five-part series, we’re looking at a crucial part of the journey, one that often gets overlooked: Reentry & Reflection. You can catch up on our first three posts here: Planning, Preparing and GOing.
A few simple notes on Reentry: It happens. And, because of jet lag, it can be brutal on the body. This is the time to extend grace and watch your nerves, but also to try to reestablish structure and routine.
I’ve personally found the sooner I can take care of the logistics – unpacking, washing clothes, going shopping for food, etc. – the smoother the reentry. I like to get those things done as early as possible so I can focus on what I believe is the more important part of this stage: Reflection.
The crucial – often overlooked – step to winding up your family adventure
Reflection often receives only passing recognition, unfortunately. And that is due to many factors:
- You (and the family) are tired upon return, and you may be heavy with jet lag;
- You are wishing for something familiar and ready to get back into routine;
- You are SO READY to stop living out of a suitcase and to sleep in your own bed (aaah!);
- Life gets busy, and the daily stuff begs for attention;
- You may feel you’re being too nostalgic or living in the past if you keep focusing on “the trip";
- You’re just kind of sad it’s all over. I mean, it was a lot of work, and now you’re back to “regular old life";
- You’re now focused on the next big thing.
Do any of these reasons resonate with you? I sure have felt each one of these at various points.
But do yourself a favor and make sure you set aside the time – at least a couple hours – to debrief. I mean, this was a “critical mission,” right? You got your family overseas, something that may have previously felt too difficult – or maybe impossible. Now’s the time to get moving on this, when the experience and ideas are still fresh.
So, with all the demands of life, how do you make time for this?
I would suggest you first take some personal time, and encourage your spouse/partner to do the same. Cover for one another when it comes to the kids. Get out of the house with laptop or pen and journal. Go someplace you can concentrate, uninterrupted, for two hours. Turn your phone off (let him/her know) and focus.
This is hard to do and, admittedly, I have not always been great at this. But I’ve also learned how to do this as time has moved on.
Ask yourselves these questions to get started:
- Overall, how do I feel the trip went?
- Were we prepared well enough? Where did we fall short – and why?
- Did my spouse/partner and operate as a team? Where & when did we run into problems – and why?
- How did each child seem to experience and process the trip? (This is from your perspective. Theirs will come later.)
- What did I feel were the highs? Lows? (Like most & least?)
- How did I change (if at all)? What did I / we learn?
- How can I take what I/we learned and apply it to our lives now?
- What would we do differently next time?
These are simply eight strong (sets of) questions to get you started and give you a framework. They may – or may not – work for you. Journal away as the spirit leads!
The key here is to spend time on it. Then go let your spouse/partner do the same. He/She may choose to do it in a different way – a long walk instead of a time to write. Up to you.
Then – and this is key – go on a date night (yes, get a sitter!) and share what you’ve learned. Doing this will truly help you tie up the loose ends of the trip. You might also want to include some financial wrap up in all this. I won’t go into this here, but if you’re someone who cares to do that, I’m pretty sure you’ve been saving those receipts or recording your purchases all along anyway!
If you can do this over the first week you’re back, that is ideal. After that, you’ll want to get with your kids.
Now, a word of wisdom here: Make sure you’ve talked with your kids about this idea – even briefly – on the flight back. Just let them know, “After we’re back a week or two, we’d like to get together as a family and discuss how you guys feel the trip went – what you liked, didn’t like, etc.” Leave it at that.
If you do that, when you suddenly bring up the trip again, two weeks post-return, they will at least have a memory of you mentioning something earlier. It won’t seem so random.
I would suggest you use some of the same questions with your kids. They don’t need to write (unless you’re homeschooling), but do make note of their responses. The time all together, however you can squeeze it in, should be one of parents asking questions and listening, with the kids doing most of the talking.
This will allow for your kids to process the experience and not just tuck it away. They won’t forget it, of course, but they are more likely to remember the details (and, hopefully, the impact) later on if they’ve had verbal time to process.
So, don’t skip this stage, even though busyness, drift and resistance would conspire to have you do so.
I’ve been on trips where we didn’t do this – and ones we did. And I can tell you, everything wraps up so much better when you give some time to this stage. That’s because it prepares you for the next time you do a similar thing.
And – I’m hoping – there’ll be a next time. Only better.
The final article of this series will focus on follow-up. That’s coming up soon!
Can you see the value in this step? How can you make it happen?