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My oldest son is going to middle school next year and quite frankly I don’t know where the time went. As he transitions into this new phase in his life, I can’t help but wonder, have we provided him with a solid enough foundation to lean on as his sphere of influence widens? Does he fully grasp what morals and values are important to our family?
Sure my husband and I have discussed these thing amongst ourselves, but we never explicitly discussed it with our kids. As my son prepares to start middle school, I want him to be clear about our family’s core beliefs and also our goals as a family.
According to Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, when families lack a shared vision “kids can be swept along with the flow of society’s values and trends.” Unfortunately, everything that society values isn’t always in line with what our family believes in. This is why it’s so important that families share with their kids from early on who they are as a family and what they are about.
Covey believes that creating a family mission statement is one way to establish a family’s identity. He defines a family mission statement as “a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about — what it is you really want to do and be — and the principles you choose to govern your family life.” Basically a family mission statement lays out for your family what you want to accomplish together and how you plan on getting it done.
Bottom line, every family should have a family mission statement. Below I’m going to share with you some ideas on how to create one.
1. Schedule a family meeting. Plan a time to explain to your children that your family will be developing a family mission statement. Covey suggests that you make this planning meeting a special occasion for the family. We made creating our mission statement part of our New Year’s Eve celebration.
2. Brainstorm with your family to determine what your family is all about. It’s important that everyone gets to have a say in what your family mission statement will be. Children will be more likely to adhere to your mission statement when they help to create it. The following are some questions you can ask to help figure out your family’s identity.
• What words best describes our family?
• What are our strengths as a family?
• What is our purpose as a family?
• If our home could be filled with one feeling, what would it be?
• What makes you want to come home?
• What embarrasses you about our family?
• What would you like for other people to say about our family?
• What kind of relationships do we want to have with each other?
• How do we want to talk to each other and treat each other?
• As a family, we are at our best when…
• As a family, we are at our worst when…
• Name three things you want our family to value.
• How are we unique as a family?
• What are some of our family’s core values and beliefs? (i.e. honesty, loyalty, kindness, acceptance).
• What do you want our family to accomplish in the next 10 years?
Try not to get too hung up on getting the ‘right’ answers to these questions. Focus more on the process of discussing your family’s vision and goals. This is a great opportunity to bond with your family as you listen to each other discuss what’s important to each of you.
3. Narrow down your list. Once you have answered the above questions, you will no doubt have a large amount of information that could be included in your mission statement. However, since you want your mission statement to be brief, everything can’t be included. Review the answers given by family members and then work with them to determine the top ten priorities for your family. We did this by taking a family vote.
4. Write your family mission statement. After you and your family decide what priorities and goals are most important to your family, it’s time to use this information to draft your family’s mission statement. Keep your statement short because you want it to be easily remembered. A rule of thumb is to keep your mission statement under 100 words.
There’s no right way to make a family mission statement so you have a lot of leeway in how your finished product looks. For example, you can write it as a paragraph, as a series of bullets, as a song, etc. The key is whatever works for your family. Check out these sample mission statements from other families.
5. Create a visual display of your family mission statement. Once you are satisfied with your family mission statement, frame it and hang it where it will be seen daily. This will ensure that family members have a constant reminder of what your family is all about and what you are seeking to accomplish.
6. Review family mission statement often. If you want your kids to internalize your family’s mission statement, then you will need to review it with them often. Try and find ways to refer back to your mission statement through-out the day. For example, when my kids do something wrong I ask them if their behavior is in line with our mission as a family. This usually opens up the door to discuss their behavior and they get a clear explanation of why their behavior is problematic and what they need to do to fix it.
I hope you find this information helpful as you set out to create your family mission statement. Don’t forget to check out 20 Family Reflection Questions To Discuss With Your Family in the New Year!