How to Write a Multi-generation Family Values Statement – Step Two

In How to Write a Multi-generation Family Values Statement – Step One  I noted that creating a values statement is no easy task with your adult children and their families. Time is of the essence for families with jobs and children and problems of their own. Creating a family values statement including all living generations is an activity that can easily get pushed aside for more pressing and immediate needs.

In that post, I recognized the problem and theorized that:

“One of our very first group conversations needs to be an answer to the question: Why are we doing this? We need to understand if and how it will benefit our family, what we will do with the answers and how we will demonstrate and pass along those answers to our next gen.”

Why are we doing this? Why create a family values statement?

Here are the benefits I believe a cross generational family values statement will provide to my family.

Creating the statement forces us to intentionally think about what our values are.

Many of us drift through life, never living life on purpose, never determining the path we want to follow, and want to teach our kids to follow before we are actually on the path.

Having a values statement increases our chance of happiness.

When we do things that align with our internal core values, we are happier beings. We feel good about ourselves. Intentionally acknowledging those internal core values helps us guide our actions to greater individual happiness.

Creating a values statement helps us, as parents of adult offspring, understand which of our values they have accepted and internalized and how these values are demonstrated.

Our children do not internalize all of the values we ourselves have. Knowing which they did and why they did not accept others helps us understand each other.

Creating a values statement helps our adult offspring understand themselves and helps them lead lives congruent with their values.

Using a multi generational family committee and meetings causes us to set aside time to think through values, when the crush of daily work, childcare and study might otherwise preclude doing so.

Creating a values statement helps our adult offspring recognize the values they want to pass along to their children.

If we consciously recognize what we think we are trying to teach our children, we stand a better chance of actually teaching those values.

Creating a values statement helps us, as parents of adult offspring, to know more about what behavior to teach and reinforce in our grandchildren.

One of the things that can cause huge misunderstandings between family generations is a conflict in values taught by parents to children as opposed to those taught by grandparents to grandchildren. Parents resent having the grandparents sabotage the lessons the parents are trying to teach. It causes real harm to relationships.

Having a family values statement will help guide us all into remembering and re-enforcing those values in each other from generation to generation.

Having a family values statement and visibly displaying it and demonstrating it through action, gives each member a feeling of identity and meaning that helps us feel that we are part of something special and important. It helps establish a lasting family identity that can hold the family together past the third generation.

What we did next to explore our values.

In that first values creation post I also hypothesized that:

“Before I pass these thoughts along to our little family committee, I need to come up with a way to get those family members to think through their own, and their family unit’s values – without unintentionally influencing them with our thoughts! For this, I believe I will need a guided conversation and I will need them all to have pre-thoughts on the question.”

We have taken the step to get pre-thoughts for the discussion. I sent an email with the following questions to the committee members and have received back their answers.

  • List 5 – 10 traits you hold dear, that you value – Eg. Work ethic
  • List 3 – 6 traits or things that you hate –  Eg. Bigotry
  • List 3 – 5 traits to develop in the next generation of family. – Eg. Self-sufficiency
  • List 2 – 4 outcomes you would like to see if you came back to life in the family 100 years from now. –  Eg. Family members are leaders in their community

Some of the answers were expected, others were wildly different than anything I had thought. All were welcome.

A small subset of our combined answers were:

  • Respect for, not fear of, their family members – especially while young
  • A diverse political/world view/religious belief spectrum that is respected by all
  • Love
  • Family members that are happy with their chosen path/life, regardless of money/social status that they have obtained
  • Involved in life, pursuing goals that make a difference to them – not just living off a trust fund
  • Have them own plenty of property (assuming that is their desire)
  • Want to see them healthy/active
  • Family knows its history and stories.
  • Currently living family members hang together

What’s next for us?

We got back a lot of information from these questions. We need to find a way to pare and prioritize to distill the essence of our combined values. Each family unit may have their own additional values, but we hopefully can end up with one set of combined values and a values statement that we have in common.

One of the exercises I hope to get family members to do in our next family meeting is to tell stories demonstrating the values we have listed. How have we shown those values, why do we hold them dear, how are we teaching them to our children and more. I’m hoping that will help us understand how to pare and prioritize.


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