Values are our moral and ethical foundations. They form and deepen throughout our lives. They are shaped by our beliefs, conscience, empathy, respect, life experiences, and sense of rightness. And when our children find a personal connection to these values, they can serve as a life compass to help them make the right decisions and to act appropriately along their life journeys.
As you prepare your sons and daughters for the annual migration to college, know that by helping your children connect to your core values – even if it is just one for now – will serve as a wonderful life compass to help them make good choices and decisions as their new life journey unfolds.
We have found that the best way to share our true values is to find their catalyst in our life experiences and stories. When values are discussed in the context of how our beliefs, conscience, empathy, and respect were shaped by our life experiences, our loved ones have a greater interest in learning from these life lessons and even making them part of their own value system. If we want our children to connect with and share our values, then it is our job to make our values tangible and meaningful.
When our children can relate to why something impacted our lives and how it shaped our behaviors and thinking, they learn from that experience, and it provides life guidance without the feeling that a directive is being imposed upon them by their parent. Sharing the life experiences and stories that helped shape your values is an effective way to accomplish this task.
Here’s a personal example that may help shed some light on this topic.
When I shared with my teenage sons that one of my values is to make sure we are not wasteful with food and possessions, they initially responded with, “Sure, Mom, that’s nice.” They may even have wondered what hidden agenda I was working. However, when I shared some of the details of my mother’s experiences and stories of poverty and courage, and how they are only one generation removed from such a difficult life, my sons not only understood this value, they began to make it part of their moral and ethical foundation. It changed their perceptions of poverty, as it now had a real face, and it made them more conscious consumers. This one belief or value now impacts their decisions and actions as they navigate their college lives in a way I could have never imagined! And I have no doubt, this generational value will continue to guide the lives of my sons and future generations because our family stories made this value tangible and meaningful.
Here’s how you can get started. Read some of the Ethical Wills/Legacy Letters written by a variety of individuals on our website for inspiration. You may also find our Ethical Will/Legacy Letter and Life Reflection Story workbooks can help guide you along the way. Once you uncover the life experiences and stories behind your core values, you will begin to understand how and why they can serve as a critical life compass for you and your loved ones.
And as you help your college-bound son or daughter pack for their big adventure, don’t forget the Kleenex to keep your tears at bay, some favorite treats to soothe their homesick hearts, and a little gift to remind your college students that you’re always there for them as they navigate this next phase of their exciting lives. Bon voyage!
Values are featured on this week’s Life Slice card. The deck of 52 beautiful cards can inspire you or your college student to live a life of celebration and purpose. Or share them with a friend or loved one as a meaningful gift from your heart.
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