The end of the year – like any kind of ending/ beginning – is a natural space for reflection. It’s a time to pause to remember what happened, assess what we liked, and consider what you would like to do differently.
Have you ever done a year in review of your family—big events, favorite moments? It is enjoyable and memorable. Choose a time to have a family meeting to reflect. Plan for an extended dinner some night or block off a Sunday afternoon. Do it instead of the holiday party nobody really feels like going to or on New Year’s Eve before anybody heads out for festivities.
Think of your family year in review as fun, not a must do. And while you may get some grumbling, your family is likely to come around as you start to share memories and stories.
Use Pictures to Reflect with Your Family
Sometimes the things that happened way back in January slip out of our minds by the end of the year. Consider watching a quick slideshow of pictures from your year. You can create one or ask each person to add ten of their favorite photos from their phones to a shared file, quick and easy. Try not to get too bogged down in this – especially if your family takes a lot of pictures.
People may shout things out like “Oh, I forgot all about that!” or “Look at how young, Kaya looks there.” While you’ll want to tell stories, for now keep things moving and simply let the images trigger memories.
Questions to Ask as You Reflect with Your Family
With memories primed by images, you may just begin talking about your year. If you’re not sure where to start, these questions can get you going. You may want to all spend a little time writing about one or more of these questions and then share responses – or just dive into conversation.
- What was your favorite memory from the past year?
- What was the hardest thing for you this year?
- What’s one thing you learned this year?
- How have you changed this year?
- If you had to sum up our family’s year in one word, what would it be?
- What do you want more of for our family in the new year?
As you share memories and swap stories (and dreams for the new year), you’ll connect to your values.
All those hikes you took as a family show that you embrace the outdoors. Your monthly clean sweeps in the park shows you care about your community. The family reunion and holiday gatherings show that family is important.
The last question asks you to look ahead. What do you want as a family in the new year? Do you want more adventures? Fewer activities and more relaxing? Are there big changes in store – a new family member or a major move? Talk about how how each person feels with 2017 looming. Each person may have individual goals and desires. Make time for those, but stop to think about what you want for your family too.
What to Do with Your Reflection
The conversation about your year in review will be rich, but what if you wrote it down? Don’t worry about a word-for-word capture, but note the key events of the year and what they meant to your family. Summarize the overall feel of the year in our statement like “This was our year of ______.” This was our year of local eating, or This was the year we worked together to pull off a grand vacation!
Here are some other ways to go a step further:
Start a notebook or shared computer file with your reflections on the year. Then come back next year and reflect again.
Consider creating a family yearbook with pictures and the stories you collect in your conversation. Many families create photo books for the year, but try going beyond a simple header and caption.
Instead of Hadley with the fish she caught, tell the story: Hadley caught her first fish after spending a day afraid to put a worm on the hook and another getting frustrated waiting and another sitting quietly next to her grandfather until she felt a little tug . . . and started reeling. Another tug . . . She was so proud of her catch, and so excited to share the moment with Grandpop who told her about how he spent a whole summer trying to catch his first fish.
We say pictures are worth a thousand words, but I believe the words and stories matter too.
And don’t worry if you don’t get the yearbook done until February. Think of it as a great Valentine’s Day present. Keep it simple so you can get it done.
If your reflection helps you create a bucket list of goals and dreams for the new year, find a way to capture that, make a poster or vision board for your family, or just create a word document and share it with everyone. And these ideas can help point to values that might become part of a family motto. I’ll tell you more about that next year! For now, I wish you a Happy Holiday Season and a Magnificent New Year’s.
Family stories are your heritage. Each family has a history that no other family has. If you’re interested in the role of storytelling in your own family legacy, download my free resource 5 Questions to Ask at the Table. By telling your stories and sharing them, you keep your history, tradition and ancestors alive, and build connection within your family and across generations.