By Mireille McKee and Meg McLaughlin
Some days—okay, a lot of days—just getting from breakfast to bedtime with our little ones is a marathon. Cook, feed, clean, repeat. In the delightful chaos of the day, it can be hard to find the time and headspace to think about what a “family vision” is, let alone what your own family’s vision may be. But as I’ve experienced with my three boys, the days may sometimes feel like a marathon, but somehow the years flash by in a sprint. A family vision is what your shared aspiration as a family is, what you collectively value and hold dear. Articulating a family vision can help ground the day-today—providing a context for why we do what we do, and building an understanding with our children of what it means to be part of your own unique family.
This year, Little Wonders adopted “Living Your Family Vision” as our school theme. I remember thinking what a lovely idea I’ll never have time to implement! However, as Director Mireille McKee shared, a family vision can be created by simply sitting around the kitchen table with your children and discussing what the family means to each one of you. Prepare yourself for answers like, “Lights!” (huh?) and “Ice cream!” (clearly trying the power of suggestion), but you might also get a gem like, “there’s always someone to play with” or “a warm house.” With a little parental guidance and enthusiasm, you may find that your children already have a pretty good idea of what your family is all about.
I also found that talking about our family vision reminded my husband and me of who we want to be as parents. Sure, the days may often feel filled with diapers and driving, but in the little spaces of time, I think about how to role model gratitude, encourage their sense of humor, and grow problem solvers as we go about our day.
Which brings me to the living part of the family vision. Mireille recommended writing the vision down and posting it somewhere visible, where it can be referenced easily. Vision means knowing who you are, where you are going and what will guide your journey. It means knowing what it looks and feels like when you are living your values. Our boys have begun to adopt the vocabulary, talking about what is important to our family—and sometimes happily pointing out when a family member is not living out a value to their satisfaction. It’s always a work-in-progress, but it feels good to know that we’re working on stuff that’s important to us.
So how can you begin building your family vision? Here are four key components of creating and living your family vision (excerpted from a Little Wonders discussion document):
- Create the vision together. Listen to each other’s hopes and dreams. Talk until everyone has agreed and is committed to the vision. (In other words, create buy-in.) When your children are younger than school-age, this may be something that parents do together, and build into conversations with the children later. A school-aged child is developmentally ready to contribute to the family vision in more concrete ways.
- Maintain the vision. As a parent, hold yourself, your partner and your children accountable to the vision. If it looks like someone has behaved inconsistently, it is time to sit down and discuss what happened. Set household rules and limits that are consistent with the vision.
- Model the vision. The adults in the house must act as role models who demonstrate behaviors consistent with the vision. (Try building daily routines that support your values. We’ve instituted a nightly “Dinnertime Thanks” for everyone to share around the dinner table, and added “Something Funny” to our conversation starter of sharing a high and a low from the day.)
- Keep the vision relevant. When you encounter tough times, revisit the vision. The vision provides a great frame of reference to have discussions without blame or finger pointing. It allows you to focus on what to do, rather than putting people on the defensive.
Mireille McKee is mom of two grown children who value family and community, share gratitude daily and embrace living life fully. She has enjoyed being director of Little Wonders for the past 14 years. Meg McLaughlin is a Little Wonders and Family Connections board member, and is the mom of three boys.