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What Do You Stand For?
How core values inform your decision making process as a parent
My youngest child just turned 18-years-old and is officially an adult, according to cultural Canadian standards. That said, this post is not about what it means to adult within our Western dominant culture (that might become another post). It is however, about what it means to raise a family rooted in values. Entering this next phase of motherhood, with adult children, I can’t help but reflect on my years of parenting babies, adolescents, teens, and now adults. Each stage of development very unique. However, throughout all these phases of life there is a constant holding the family boat afloat. Let’s call that invisible force: values.
I am entering the values conversation late in the game. However, when I reflect back they were always there, I just didn’t name them overtly. As a therapist, eventually values are to be explored with our clients. Some forms of therapy, like ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) is rooted in values as a primary point of reflection and consideration. Without naming and knowing ones values, the therapy can lose focus and direction. Values inform therapeutic goals, as well as, life and family goals.
Quoting from founder of ACT, Russ Harris’s ‘Bulls Eye’ worksheet (2008),
“Values reflect what you want to do, and how you want to do it. They are about how you want to behave towards your friends, your family, yourself, your environment, your work, etc. Values are not the same as goals. Values involve ongoing action; they are like directions we keep moving in, whereas goals are what we want to achieve along the way.”
Values inform what you stand for and why.
As you shift from me-life to we-life and co-create a family, values help to inform the ethos of your family. What do you want your family to stand for? How do you want to behave within your family? Why are you working so hard; for what purpose? Looking back, how will you know that you stayed to true to your values? Values are more than just words or some construct you make up in your head.
Values come from the heart.
In a world that is ever changing, at a rapid rate, in which social media usually dictates to young families and young adults what they should stand for, who they should become, and what they should believe in, we need to claim our values more then ever to help cancel out all the external noise. And, they need to be made known.
Remember, values guide your decision making process. Without a solid anchoring in your values it can be challenging to answer the questions: Why do you believe what you believe? Why are you behaving the way you are behaving? Why are you raising your child in the way you are raising your child? Why did you make the decision you made?
At the end of the day no one else is responsible for your family life aside from you and your loves ones. Rarely do we take the time to sit down with a list of words that represent ‘values’ and sift through them with a keen eye and heart, and claim a handful as guiding principles. This short but hopefully inspirational post is intended to nudge you towards naming and claiming your family values. To begin, you can search ‘values lists’ on the web and you will find many to choose from.
A process I recommend:
Print or open up a PDF version of a values list of your choice
Read through it and pay attention to any word that jumps out at you
Feel into your body and heart as you do this
Highlight those words (pick a colour)
Go through the list again and shorten it to top 10 (highlight in a different colour)
Do this again, and see if you can land on 5 top values (highlight in a different colour)
Now, imagine what it would feel like to live your life according to those values
Ask yourself: Do I need to make any changes to better align with my values?
See yourself making decisions that align with those values; having conversations aligned with those values; working aligned with those values; behaving aligned with those values
Do something creative to bring those values to life and make them visible within your home so you can see them clearly
Have your significant other (and older children) participate in the exercise and notice what values overlap and those that don’t (this is an excellent tool to engage in deeper conversations with one another)
Once you have completed this exercise feel free to share it with others in your close circle of influence. Engage in conversations around values with other parents. Start to see the world through value-driven living. Let your values inform how you think and behave so you can start to parent from the inside-out, not the outside-in.