By Emily Mackintosh
The North Star represents the highest guiding principle that propels us towards creating sustainable and thriving communities.
It serves as a moral compass, providing direction and inspiration for decision-making and actions that put the well-being of everyone at the forefront. A North Star could look like a considered statement of your family values. For example, ‘We prioritize speaking openly and honestly and always listen to what others have to say’. Or it could look like a guiding framework that your family foundation is built upon. Your family foundation is the interconnected support system that holds your family together. It encompasses shared values, beliefs, traditions and rituals. It may include a religious or spiritual aspect, or even a guiding philosophy such as ‘do no harm’ or ‘kindness first’. Your family may live by an environmentally conscious ethos or perhaps you are a family that has strong local community connections through school and sports. Identifying what foundation your family is built upon and the values that you already embody may be easy if you practise a particular faith or philosophy. However, if this is not the case you can still discover what these values are by recognising your unique family patterns, reflecting on your own childhood and feeling into what feels safe and familiar within your own experience of family.
As parents, guardians and caregivers we all have a crucial role in shaping our children into compassionate and morally upright individuals, especially in today’s uncertain world. By understanding your family values and learning how to put them into practice, you can help your child develop a guiding North Star to better navigate this rapidly changing world.
The following questions are a great starting point to learn more about yours and your child’s present understanding of your family values:
- What kind of family do you aspire to be?
- What do you enjoy about other families that you spend time with?
- What is something that you have noticed that you do in your family that may be similar or different to other families?
- Can you describe any family traditions or rituals that are important to your family?
- How does your family support and encourage one another during difficult times?
- Are there any family activities or pastimes that your family loves doing together?
Just by including your children in this pivotal conversation, you are already creating a valuable asset pool of information and insights that are gathered through personal experiences, emotions, and relationships. Children need to have their thoughts, views and feelings included in the process of creating family values and the family foundation. As adults, it is easy to forget how we once felt as children trying to make sense of the complexities in this world. It is incredibly humbling and valuable for us to truly listen to our children and to try to see life through their eyes. Asking thoughtfully worded questions helps to gain deeper understanding of your family dynamics and interactions. There is no right or wrong in this process; the meaning is made through the participatory act of shared dialogue. Over time you will start to notice a new ‘language of values’ emerging simply by asking different questions and being open to receiving different answers. Write down what you discover and use these insights to express your family’s guiding North Star in a guiding statement that is derived from your collective values.
Once you have collaborated together as a family and created a guiding North Star, the next piece of the puzzle is to put it into practise! This is where learning the skills of self-observation and self-remembering prove especially helpful. Both are regenerative development practices that harness our human willpower and foster the ability within ourselves and our children to see the potential in all that life delivers us.
Self-observing is to be aware of one’s state of being and the impact it’s having on one’s environment (Mang & Haggard 2016). For a child, this could look like noticing and naming feelings and emotions like anger, joy, sadness, fear and excitement and how they feel and move within our bodies. Then, we recognize how they influence our behaviour and others around us when we are occupying these different states of being.
Self- remembering is about being proactive and responsive to one’s state of being as opposed to being reactive and relying on the habitual self to steer the ship (Mang & Haggard 2016). It is the act of recalling or remembering the self that you aspire to be in each moment and to call that self forward. This is where the guiding North Star really comes into play; it becomes a shining light in the dark to guide us when we steer off course or when we find ourselves in tricky situations. Firstly, we recognise our state of being through self-observing and then we self-remember and make a choice to respond in alignment with our North Star.
Developing strong morals and principles is a non-linear journey that requires patience, compassion, and love. It is up to us as responsible and mindful adults to instil these values in our children by leading by example, encouraging empathy, promoting open communication, and teaching responsibility and this is made easier when we have our North Star to guide us. Remember, every small step towards moral development is a significant contribution to a brighter future. And that’s something we can all be proud of.
Emily is a mother, regenerative practitioner, ESG consultant and writer with a passion for creating regenerative communities and businesses.
Available for group and one-on-one sessions.