Do you really know what your family’s values are?

We hear a lot about “family values” in the news media these days, but what does that phrase really mean?

In the context of current American political conversations, the term “family values” has become code for a harkening back to traditional, 1950s-style values with a very limited view of family that includes a leading father, homemaker mother and cis-gendered children.

That’s definitely not what I mean by the term. I am personally ready to leave the 1950s and those historical, old-fashioned family values in the past where they belong!

When I say family values, I’m talking about sitting down with your family and actually figuring out the values, beliefs or morals that you share. For example, what matters most to your family? What do you stand for? What do you believe? How is your family unlike other families – what makes your family unique and special?

I think coming up with your family’s values is a great way to intentionally set a tone for your family, and help parents ensure that all family members are aligned and moving forward together.

As a side note, I want to be clear that when I say parents, I am referring to any possible combination of a mom and a dad, a single parent, a pair of moms, a pair of dads, grandparents or other relatives acting as parents, co-parenting but not married parents, or whatever family looks like for you.

Often, we don’t stop and think about things like shared values when building a family. We might just parent the way we were parented – or we might try to parent the exact opposite way, in some cases.

Life happens pretty fast, especially once babies are born. Time flies by and before you know it, you have a teenager in the house and you’re not sure how you got here! Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, back to shared values. If you’ve worked at a company in the past 15 years, you may have gone through a “values” exercise to come up with organizational values. In the corporate setting, values are a set of shared beliefs that an organization or group of people subscribe to. Having a formal, stated or written set of values can help align members of a group to sync up and act accordingly.

Recently, The Trevor Project unveiled new organizational values and I really like them. It got me thinking… what are our little family’s values?

So, we decided to do a brainstorming exercise as a family to come up with a long list of possible family values. First, I wrote down things that made me think of our family now, plus things that I felt were aspirational about the kind of family I want us to be. I also asked E and Z for ideas and wrote them all down.

From that long laundry list of possible values, I had E and Z go through and mark which ones they liked best. I did the same. That brought us down to a shorter list of about 25 family values.

Then, we each went through the list once more and marked our top favorites. We had some good discussions as a family as we were doing this – and some laughs, of course. I definitely think a family values exercise should be fun! If I’m being honest, they weren’t SUPER into this at first, but by the end they were excited to see what we had all come up with.

The end result of this exercise is that we now have our very own official family values, which I’ve shared above. I love what we came up with. Our values are such a perfect blend of E, Z and I – just like our family is. Our family’s values may not look like yours, and that’s just fine!

Other families might not feel the need to formalize or state their values. If you belong to a particular religion or culture, it’s possible your family values may flow naturally from that. But for us, I felt something was missing.

I’m really glad we did this exercise and took the time to think and be intentional about our family and what we stand for and believe in.

I plan to spend time thinking about our family values each year. I would like to review them as a family annually to see if we need to add or change anything. And, I even offered a prize to the family member who memorizes them first!

Having these shared family values gives us something to reflect on any time we need to make a big decision, come to a crossroads or feel we need a little guidance. I’m so glad we did this and I look forward to seeing where our family values take us next.

Does your family have a set of implicit or stated values? I’d love to hear your thoughts on family values in the comments below or over on Facebook or Instagram.

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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.
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