At a company, it’s important to have a mission. While workers will have unique responsibilities, they still cleave to core values. When you think about it, a family unit isn’t so different. It’s a group of people with their own talents and tasks who are each striving towards individual goals that also strengthen their bond. But while a company clearly states their values, and regularly assesses how their staffers are upholding them, families don’t tend to be as prescriptive. Considering how closely family members connect on a daily basis, and how much their actions impact each other, shouldn’t shared values be more of a priority? Today, especially, when the world feels so politically-charged and technology is disrupting our lives (for better or for worse), charting a course for your family could be deeply needed.
Does this mean you need to call a “board” meeting and write a mandate for everyone to follow? Of course not. However, it doesn’t hurt to think in broad categories, just like a company might. For instance, you might consider conversations around finances, social media, work ethic, and communication—emphasis on conversations. In order to define and work towards a set of family values, it’s important that adults don’t lecture. Let kids come to the table with their own ideas too so that it won’t feel like drudgery.
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Make It Accessible
Maybe as the breadwinner, you have financial goals for your family—whether it’s saving for college or retirement. Whatever the case, put it in simple terms and figure out how everyone can do their part. Kids might relate better to the idea of saving for a vacation or a special event, so discuss the best way to make that happen. Maybe it means mom and dad forego Starbucks every day and tweens or teens put aside half of their birthday or Christmas money into a savings fund. Whatever your focus, be sure to make the goal clear and the actions easy to implement—and check in on it.
Keep It Realistic
While it might be tempting to suggest an all-out social media ban, kids will balk at such an extreme measure and won’t feel aligned with the goal. Instead, try talking about the importance you place on real-time interactions, and why. Model that behavior by monitoring your own screen time and by scheduling family nights where everyone plays a board game or makes dinner together for instance. If it helps, create schedules where each family member has allotted time within a day or week for social media use and set aside a bin where smartphones, iPods, and tablets get put during off-hours.
Think Outside the Box
As a family, take the opportunity to celebrate what makes yours unique and come up with goals that might not be so obvious. Maybe your family moves around a lot. If so, your core values might involve finding ways to make connections in new communities. Perhaps your family members have very different hobbies. Could core values speak to how you show interest and encourage each other’s passions? What if your family is made up of overachievers? Consider ways to come together as a family to relax and take a break from your daily demands.
Don’t Overthink It
Maybe it’s important for your family to simply agree that you value kindness to others—something sorely needed these days. If that’s the priority, figure out what that looks like for everyone. Parents can share stories about how they use kindness in the workplace, while kids can talk about situations at school. Discuss ways in which you can practice kindness each day—and start right at home.
At the end of the day, core values should help your family grow as individuals—and together. They can make it easier to communicate with each other, support one another, and face the myriad obstacles life throws at you. So, take some time to figure them out together, and have a little fun in the process!
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