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There were rules and expectations for parents and children alike. There was a cohesiveness within social norms and family life that helped set those standards. Life, it seems, was slower, easier to understand and navigate. That was then.
And this is now: In our digital nano-second, twenty-first century world, families are confronted with myriad lifestyle choices, bombarded by mass media messaging, and exposed to the troubles of a global world. Combined with radically different demands at work, school, and in relationships, families are struggling to establish a sense of unity, to identify themselves and their place in the world. Defining and aligning core values as a family is one way to promote harmony and stability, which bolsters the family, individually and collectively.
Values…you may hear this word used at work, in a spiritual or religious context, and in other types of organizations. Simply stated, a value confers the degree to which something is of importance to an individual, a group, or an organization and which actions help live out that belief. Defining core values as a family inspires action, guides decision making, strengthens communication, and builds trust for the family unit and its individual members. Core values set the stage for how to respect and be respected and can be a source for the grit necessary to persevere through challenges.
Children are keen observers of adult behavior, especially their parents. In some cultures, children will question if the “things you’ve been teaching them” align with the behavior and words used by the adults in their lives. If you profess “family time is my top priority,” but you always miss family plans for career obligations, then your value – family time- is not aligned with your actions. Children see that hypocrisy and respond accordingly. Usually, this creates discord–arguments and hard feelings–between family members. In other circumstances, you may very well align your values and actions, but a child rebels against those values. In other cultures, values may play a more dominant role and questioning and rebelling against them is not acceptable. They may do so at a later time, or not at all–carrying those values with them into the next generation.
Even as there are cultural differences in family values, and different values held among families in the same culture, research indicates that families who align their actions and behaviors with their values are more resilient and experience greater harmony at home.
When you sit down together as a family to discuss your values, you are creating a road map that will guide and support the family for the present moment, and as you grow and change together. Consider these benefits of aligning family core values:
Below is a short list of the types of core values that your family can consider and define for themselves. Before choosing, really think about the meanings of each word and then what the word means to your family members.
We’ve talked about the importance and benefits of establishing a family’s core identity and values, but how do you actually go about it? It starts with desire and communication.
The following are basic steps for starting the family values conversation. One important consideration: Timing of the meeting. It will be easier to get everyone involved if you announce the meeting in advance and at a time when there is low demand on everyone’s energy, such as during a school vacation week, or a Sunday evening after dinner, or around a holiday. Also, don’t try to come up with core values in one sitting, allow for at least two meetings.
Once you have created your Family Values Statement, it is time to make it part of your day to day life. It will take time to change behavior and you may want to consider working with a professional. The process you go through may look different and may take more than a few attempts to get everyone on board (especially teenagers).
Fed up with Frenzy by Susan Sachs Lipman provides ideas of how to slow down and spend time together as a family during everyday activities, games, crafts, celebrating seasons, and much more. ISBN-10: 1402265255
The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties by Dr. William Doherty offers a guide to opening communication between family members through a wide variety of everyday family rituals. ISBN-10: 9780380732050