Talking With Your Kids About the Good Life


If you had asked me when I was in high school what I planned on doing with my life I would’ve had a very clear (and impressive) answer. Get a degree in Accounting and Finance from a top university, work in corporate finance or public accounting, get married, have kids, live in a gated community, and belong to a country club. Why was I so clear? It was exactly what I had seen and grown up in. But the problem was that version of a life story wasn’t a great match for my capabilities, aspirations, or values. Unfortunately, I had to figure out a new story more or less on my own. 

As a parent of a teenager, you know how important it is to guide them toward making good choices that will set them up for a successful and fulfilling life. But what does it actually mean to live a good life?

Make no mistake, the world around them is giving them specific answers to that question. But what would you say?

  • Is it about having more? Accumulating possessions, degrees, and money.
  • Or is it about doing more? Working hard, achieving more, and controlling your own destiny. 
  • Or maybe it’s about getting more people to think well of you? Some people believe that having a good reputation, impressing others, and getting people to like you makes for a good life. 

But, in reality, a good life comes from defining what’s most important to you and organizing your life to pursue it. 

Your kid is going to build their life reflecting the script they have in their heads about how life is supposed to be. You have a keen opportunity to help them write the script that’s best suited to them, even if that script looks different than the one you prefer. 

That’s why teaching your teenager about the importance of living a life guided by their values is essential to their personal development—and you’re responsible for it. By helping them to reflect on their values, you can support them in building a foundation for a purposeful and fulfilling life. Here are some ways that you can start the conversation about what it means to live a good life with your kid:

Share Your Own Values and How They Influence Your Decisions

  • One of the best ways to start the conversation about living a good life is by sharing your own values with your teenager. Talk about what matters most to you, and how those values guide your decision-making. For example, you might prioritize honesty, fairness, and kindness in your own life. Explain how those values have helped you make important decisions, and why they are so important to you.

Help Them Identify Their Own Values

  • Encourage your teenager to think about what values matter most to them. Ask them to reflect on the things that make them happy, fulfilled, and proud. Talk to them about how their values might guide their choices, and encourage them to consider how to incorporate those values into their daily life. For example, if your teenager values compassion, they might volunteer at a local soup kitchen or animal shelter.

Talk About the Importance of Balance

  • Living a good life isn't just about focusing on one value at the expense of others. Encourage your teenager to think about balancing their values and priorities to create a well-rounded life. For example, if they value adventure and family, they might plan a family vacation with exciting outdoor activities.

Emphasize the Importance of Personal Growth

  • Living a good life isn't just about achieving external success. It's also about personal growth and development. Encourage your teenager to think about how they can continue to learn, grow, and challenge themselves throughout their life. Talk to them about the importance of being open to new experiences and learning from their mistakes.

Make it a Continuing Conversation

  • Talking about what it means to live a good life isn't something that can be done in one conversation. Make it a continuing conversation, and regularly check in with your teenager about their values, priorities, and goals. Encourage them to think critically about their choices and stay true to their values, even when difficult.

By helping your teenager to reflect on their values and priorities, you can support them in building a foundation for a purposeful and fulfilling life. Whether it's generosity, truth, justice, service, compassion, wisdom, or adventure, living a life guided by your values is the key to a good life. So, start the conversation today and help your teenager discover what matters most to them.


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Do you know?

For years we’ve been studying what a young person needs in order to transition into a healthy, thriving adulthood.  

They're uncommon sense ideas, really.

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