Where Family Trees Flourish

The Family Retreat: Regeneration, Resilience and Reflection

The Family as Launchpad

Family is a concept, an institution; a complicated collection of people, personalities, needs, hopes, desires, talents and trials. It can be a platform from which to launch our lives; a maddening source of angst, and a well of infinite joy—sometimes all in the same week!

But what we also know about family is that it is an invaluable source of stability, identity, and strength; a social invention that provides a means of leveraging our human, social, and intellectual assets.

Family at its best can cushion the blows of disruption (death, loss, change) and amplify the possibilities of growth (achievement, discovery, change). And right now, as many of us are spending more time in the intense, hothouse environments of our families (as medicinal self-defense and societal responsibility), learning to live inside the family—without the option of our usual distractions sports events, dating, play dates, social dates out, etc. may be a new kind of challenge.

The Power of the Family Retreat

Joline Godfrey, Managing Director of Family Learning & Programming with the Hawthorn Institute for Family SuccessSM, has spent her life deciphering the codes and complications of families and knows that “nurturing family is not for the faint of heart”. Family members who work at it are to be celebrated and supported, and many consider organizing Family Retreats. At the Hawthorn Institute for Family Success we’ve created services and programs to do just that. 

Designing and facilitating Family Retreats is one of the six services we offer. Bespoke and reflective of each family’s unique culture and goals, Family Retreats are a customized blend of new industry expertise and crowd-sourced knowledge from within the family.

Every retreat is a unique solution to critical family issues: from finding common ground to building a shared family vision for your future together; to inventing new ways to on-board new spouses, map values in the family system; build financial fluency or explore succession plan in a new generation. The team members of the Institute for Family Success work with key family members to identify issues and create effective strategies for engaging and inspiring the whole group—no matter the issue or topic at hand.

Over the course of three decades Joline has attended hundreds of family retreats. And “it’s clear in a nano-second whether a retreat will inspire reflection, inspiration, and joy—or realize the fears of family members who show up out of obligation, leaving their open heart at home”. 

Family Retreats are as different as the families who hold them – they can last one to three days, can be in your family home or in an exotic location, can be episodic or become an expected annual event. However, many take place in the summer as it is often an easier time to get family members from multiple generations to take some time away from work or school, and the time to plan for them is in the spring.

A great family retreat refreshes and nurtures resilience.

The retreat is a vital element of family success—and like anything truly important, requires attention, wisdom, and imaginative execution. A successful family retreat leverages human capital with the same intention and attention we give to financial capital.

If you’re considering how to help your family talk, think and regenerate— we hope you will talk with us. Thinking out loud with intentional families is one of our favorite functions.

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Meaningful retreats have these elements in common:

  • Time is spent upfront in one-on-one discussions to build rapport with family members, learn each of their perspectives, intentions, goals for themselves and the family, and identify developmental opportunities.
  • Attention is paid to agenda design; it’s compelling not just compulsory; fun is not frowned on.
  • The setting inspires ideas, without tamping down enthusiasm. Light, space, and comfort are key.
  • Respect and voice are carefully facilitated--making sure everyone is heard and no one dominates.
  • Finally, post completion of the Family Retreat, the family is given the opportunity to review what was shared, to reflect on where they stand and to agree on future steps the family may want to take to achieve its short and long term goals.

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