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.

  1. Call a Family Meeting. Make sure everyone has a seat at the table, even the “new talkers” in the family. Everyone should have some paper and pencil and can record things based on questions such as:
    • What values did we grow up with (adults)?
    • What do we admire and respect about other families we know?
    • What do we enjoy doing together? How do we spend time on our own?
    • What do we admire about each other? What drives us nuts about each other?
    • What place does religion/spirituality have in our lives?
    • What does each family member see as their own strengths and weaknesses?
  2. Make a values word bank. When you feel your discussion(s) are complete, use a word bank of “values terms” to conceptualize the ideas and preferences that you identified in your conversations. Here’s an example:
    • Togetherness
    • Selflessness
    • Courage
    • Creativity
    • Honesty
    • Open Communication
    • Trust
    • Having Fun Together
  3. Keep it simple. There’s no limit to the values you can identify as important to your family. However, keeping it simple, keeps it more meaningful to each family member. One tip is to limit the number of values to the number of family members, and to agree on the values chosen. Example:
    • In a family of 4, the four key values were Honest Communication, Respect, Responsibility, and Cooperation.
  4. Arrange the values into a Family Values Statement. Using the example from above, the family wrote:
  5. “We show RESPECT for self and each other, our feelings and belongings. We COMMUNICATE thoughts and feelings honestly, calmly and kindly. We COOPERATE with other family members by helping out so everyone feels good instead of stressed. We are RESPONSIBLE for our own things and activities at home, at school, and in sport.”

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).

These resources may help:

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