The Character Movement

A Call to Retreat

Whenever I’m speaking to parents, corporate leaders or educators, the first thing I do is acknowledge how the audience (whether it’s three people or 300) has probably made some kind of extra effort to gather together. No doubt all of them rushed to work that morning, rushed through the meetings of the day or rushed through dinner to get to the event on time. So the first thing out of my mouth is, “Thanks for being here. No need to rush now. It’s okay for us to slow down this hour.”

Youth Frontiers retreats are based on the same assumption. The idea of a carefree, slowed-pace childhood is a difficult thing to attain. Many of the young people I see on our retreats are stressed from going from activity to activity or this to that. All of this rushing is combined with family economic stress, disrespectful peers and pressures that are real and unreal. It’s overwhelming for many and affects both children and parents.

On Youth Frontiers retreats, we get kids out of the frantic flow of their busy, everyday lives. We begin our retreats with music, songs, games and stories from our facilitators. The feeling is fun, energetic and conversational — almost camp-like. Allowing them to pause from the outside fray sets the stage for them to hear our critical messages of character later in the retreat.

The word “retreat” has many connotations. For the purposes of this blog, the word “retreat” is stepping back to reflect and reassess the world in which we are living. It’s a “pause button” in our normal routine that allows you to stop and reflect — even for a moment – which is something we are sorely lacking in our lives.

Think of a parental retreat as any activity (or lack thereof) that brings you to a place in which you can reflect on your own well-being and how it’s affecting those around you, especially your kids.

I want to stress the fact that a retreat doesn’t have to be a major time commitment. My daughter Tess and I sit together most mornings for just ten to twenty minutes to start the day with a “retreat.” I drink my coffee. She eats her biscotti. Sometimes we talk about silly things. Sometimes we barely talk at all. But because that “retreat” space is regularly built into our relationship, we have those precious times when we can talk about important things like relationships, life and issues of character.

I encourage you to find retreat space for you and your kids in your everyday life. Maybe it’s breakfast. Maybe it’s family dinner with no phones. Maybe it’s walking the dog or doing chores together. Find what works for your family and try your best to mindfully retreat.

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