Little Rituals: Naming Family Values

The past fifteen months have been a doozie. Between the ups and downs of isolation, stress, and loss that have been such a significant part of the ongoing global pandemic, to the summer 2020 murder of George Floyd and resulting protests, to the divisive and bizarre United States’ presidential election, to the attempted coup of the Capitol building, to the Texas winter storms of 2021 that took down the state’s grid, left our family in subfreezing temps without power and clean water for days and killed many who had fewer resources, the world sometimes seemed to spin into a place that, for many, felt less and less like a safe home.

When I find myself in mental and emotional spaces like this, of not knowing which way is up or down, I have a strong drive to go inward and feel for around for morsels of unshakable truths. But sometimes I don’t always know how.

As a family of four with two kids who are only very recently no longer considered little, even without all of the global upsets, the ever-changing nature of our little family’s world has felt a bit disorienting all on its own. We are in a natural season of growth, in the midst of a very unnatural season of change and transition on the planet Earth.

My gut tells me this is an important time for re-imagining what’s possible, what’s important, and where each of us wants to go next with our lives, both individually and also as a team.

In the midst of all of these events, I have craved what I think so many of us in the Western world often feel is missing: the support of defined village, culture, community and home.

With the prompting of a coach named Shannon Pickering Brown, we decided to take a moment and attempt to identify and name some key values that each member of our family holds dear. The idea is that an exercise like this can offer some anchors to orient from when faced with decisions, opportunities, conflicting view points, etc., in seasons like the one we are collectively participating in.

There were a variety of words that each of us named as our personal values, ranging from autonomy to adventure to authenticity to intuition to connection to self awareness to generosity to responsibility to leadership. With each of us valuing different things, and each of us housing our own strengths and weaknesses, our challenge became finding a concise way to communicate not only what we individually valued, but also what we all agreed should be honored as a family. The hope was that this could become a tool that could offer support and clarity in times of need. Knowing some of these values may change for us in the years ahead, as we and the world continue to further evolve, new information is revealed and hindsight offers fresh perspective, we tried to look only to identify values that are relevant to our lives right now.

In order to do this, we needed to talk together to find out what each of us meant by the specific words that we chose.

What did my nine year old mean by the word privacy? And what did my teen mean by the same word? What inspired my risk averse kid to say she valued excitement and adventure? What was meant by the word leadership? Intuition? Connection? After a short discussion, we were able to identify overlap and name what felt like some solid stepping stones of values that we as a family unit share.

We landed on:

Our values are sure to change as we continue to live and age, grow and learn. However, in the short term, I think it’s going to be helpful to look often at this list, and when the time comes to make decisions as a family, to look at the shared values as well as the unique values and strengths each of us brings to the table as individuals, to make sure our choices reflect what we identified in this rare moment of a sacred pause, when we took time to clear our heads, in a moment over ice cream when stress felt low, and defined and named what mattered to us most. It may become a 4th of July tradition to revisit this at our house.

Shannon encouraged us to create a visual of the words that we picked, as an easy reminder to us all. I cut up a magazine “ransom note style” and came up with this small canvas that now hangs in our kitchen.

Photo and artwork by Katie Hanus

How do you and your family members make decisions together and apart? Do you know what each of you values individually? As a group? I’d love to hear.

If you’d like support creating your own rituals, yardsteading and/or nature connection practices, check out The Handmade Life! There I offer coaching sessions, share herbal traditions, handcrafted goods, DIY workshops and herbal consultations.

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