GUEST BLOG POST: Celebrating Your Family Culture by Renee Peterson Trudeau, author, Nurturing the Soul of Your Family
One sunny afternoon in the 1970s, my mom, dad, brother, and I were having a discussion about the presidential campaign. I remember my parents passionately saying, “Well, in our family we believe in supporting welfare and helping people going through hard times, so we’re going to vote for XYZ.”
Even though I was only ten, this moment really stayed with me. I liked the fact that although my parents encouraged us to be free thinkers, they were communicating what our family valued, what mattered to us. What was essential to the fabric of our beliefs.
Around our household, we constantly say, “Well, in our family we believe…and everyone’s family is different.” I’m sure my son gets tired of hearing this in response to why he can’t have the latest electronic gadget, but I also think hearing this anchors him. Kids want to know where you stand on important issues and what your family values. It gives them a sense of pride to be able to articulate what their family stands for. This will also help them as they get older, enter adolescence, and explore beliefs that are contrary to yours, for they will already know how to articulate and stand up for their values!
This is about more than just taking stands, however. It’s about the family providing unconditional love and emotional support for one another when people need it. One morning before my husband had a particularly important meeting at work, I pulled my family together in the living room, and we instituted what we now call “Family Power Circles.” When someone is facing a challenge, we wrap our arms around each other’s waists, put our heads together, take some deep breaths, acknowledge the support in our lives, say a prayer, and verbally shower the person who needs our blessings with power qualities: courage, trust, strength, wisdom. Then we send the person out the door and into the world.
People first and things second. That’s the most essential value. In a family, no one rows out to sea alone, braving the cold, choppy waters all by themselves; we are interdependent and interconnected. Like your grandma’s worn pink-and-blue hand-crocheted blanket, a family is woven together through decades of births, deaths, and transitions. There’s a reason you’re with these people. Open your heart and let them in. Together, identify, choose, and stand up for the life you desire. Stand up for your family.
And have serious fun doing so. For instance, if you had a family mascot, what would it be? What would be your family’s theme song, your logo? If your family were on a TV sitcom, which actors would play you? Find playful ways to embody your family’s personality and cultivate a sense of group identity. What’s your family’s favorite meal? What’s your favorite group activity or card game? What’s your favorite vacation destination? What’s an ideal Sunday afternoon — playing checkers, hiking, bowling, reading, napping on the couch? Do these things. Celebrate and honor who you are and what’s important to you.
One of my favorite songs when I was a kid was “The Marvelous Toy” by Peter, Paul, and Mary. I loved the feeling of wonder and joy it evoked. My brothers and I would dance and act out this song over and over again. My son now has this CD, and listening to this song recently inspired an evening of silliness, dancing, and pillow fights, and it brought back a flood of memories of how often a sense of playfulness was present in my home growing up. It’s important to me to continue to celebrate these same qualities in my family today.
Whether you’re silly, serious, sporty, creative, zany, or intense, there’s only one family just like yours. Celebrate your uniqueness and enjoy this gift of one another.
Pat on the Back
What is one thing you do — or have done in the past — to honor and celebrate your family’s values or culture?
Putting It into Practice
Create a Family Values Statement
Set aside an hour for a family meeting dedicated to creating a family values statement. If your children are at least seven — or are mature enough to sit still for a while — they’re ready to be an active part of this process. Have family members brainstorm on their own what they consider their top three to five family values; consult and share this chapter’s list of values for ideas. Then have each person share his or her choices with the group. Then, working together, create a final list of the three to six values that are most important to everyone. Make sure everyone has a voice in the discussion; it’s important that everyone feels heard and that the final list, and the wording of the statement, reflects the family’s consensus. However, how you handle this process depends on the size of your family and ages of your kids. Try to include the input and participation of everyone, even very young kids who cannot yet write, but of course use your judgment. Not everyone may be able to participate equally. Once it’s finished, post this values statement where everyone can see it. Make copies for each family member’s room. If you like, decorate or color your list; make it into a display or art piece. Perhaps even brainstorm an image, mascot, or design that represents your family values; create a family logo or crest.
The list should feel like you. It should feel comfortable, like a familiar piece of clothing — not foreign or lofty or the way you “should be.” And it shouldn’t be too long. Keeping it to six values maximum is a good idea. Most of all, engage this process with a spirit of playfulness; be willing to deviate and make up new rules. Even if everyone agreed on just one value or quality — that would be a huge success!
Imagine a New Way of Being
A Journaling Exercise
Close your eyes for a minute and place one hand over the center of your chest. Take a deep breath. Observe with curiosity and compassion whatever thoughts and feelings this chapter has stirred up for you. When you’re ready, explore the following:
• How would it look if everyone in your family agreed on the same nonnegotiables?
• How would it feel for your family to have a defined and stated culture — would it help guide key family decisions, such as vacations, homework projects, and extracurricular activities?
• How might your relationships or your communication change if your family members were clear on your collective values?
Life balance coach/speaker Renée Peterson Trudeau is the author of the new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. Thousands of women in ten countries are participating in Personal Renewal Groups based on her first book, the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Visit her online at www.ReneeTrudeau.com
Note: This blog post is an excerpt from the new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family ©2013 Renée Peterson Trudeau. Published with permission of New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com