As we near the end of another year, television programs and newspapers tend to reflect on the highlights of the last 365 days. Besides identifying the most popular news stories of the year, reflection also brings to mind what we experienced in the past.
It engages us in deep consideration of what we did in response to those experiences, and it allows us to assess what we will carry over into next year and what we will leave behind. Because of these qualities, reflection can also have great importance outside of the media, such as in the lives of our children.
Today’s children and young adults get information quickly, conveniently, and constantly. Through tools like Google and Facebook, information is accessed at the click of a button or the touch of an icon or link. But being constantly fed with information leaves little room for reflection. For example, when your child is glued to his or her cellphone following the Tweets of a local celebrity, they are less likely to think about how they might have handled things differently with a friend. Nevertheless, it is possible for your child to reflect in this information-rich world. Below are several ways you can make that happen.
In order to allow for meaningful academic reflection, ask your child questions, beyond “What did you learn today in school?” When discussing a new skill or content your child learned, ask them how they learned it, and when your child replies, continue to probe. For example, if your child learned multiplication facts by copying a times table off the board, ask him if learning that way was fun, helpful and/or interesting? Inquire about the other ways your child has learned new information (e.g., reading, discussing, etc.). Have him evaluate the different ways he’s been taught and identify the ways that were most beneficial. Then have him think of how he can apply those “better ways of learning” to future learning. When your children continually reflect upon their learning in class, they can best help themselves learn outside of class, through studying and creating their own homework.
As children become older, they tend to reflect on their social lives but mainly by focusing their attention on what their peers think of them. Because of this, ask your children questions that will help facilitate reflection as it pertains to their values and social responsibility. You can encourage this by having your child respond to reflection questions in a journal regarding relationship issues with friends or partners. For example, if your teenager is having a conflict with a friend, you might have her respond to the following questions: How do you feel about your friend? What did she do that is making you feel this way? How do you think your friend feels? What did you do that is making her feel that way? What could you have done differently? What would you like your friend to do to help repair the relationship? What could you do to help repair the relationship? After your daughter responds in writing, discuss the situation with her in more detail or, after reflecting, have her talk with her friend to correct the situation. Of course you could help your child apply reflection to other relationships as well, such as disagreements with classmates, arguments with siblings, and your own parent-child conflicts.
Children’s spiritual lives, specifically Christian children’s spiritual lives, may mainly consist of Sunday service and Bible study. However, children who practice their faith should also be taught to reflect on Bible study and Sunday service after the lesson. In order to encourage this, have your child listen and record significant points from the spiritual lesson. Then review the message with your child on one or more days throughout the week. Ask your child how the message applies to his or her life. For example, if the Sunday service centered on faith during times of struggle, have your child identify a time when they experienced something difficult, and then discuss if and/or how they relied on God. If they didn’t, have them think about what or who they relied on instead and whether it was helpful. Such reflection could be incorporated each time your children learn a spiritual principle in order to enhance their spiritual growth and give them a chance for meaningful reflection.
Use the end of this year to introduce intentional reflection to your children, so they may carry it out in their own lives for many years to come.