Mother with daughter after thinking about important life lessons for your kids to know before you die.

8 minute read

Important Life Lessons for Your Kids to Know

When it comes to passing wisdom and life lessons onto your kids, what really matters? Here are some important life lessons to share before it's too late.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

At Trust & Will, we spend a lot of time talking about the process of protecting and passing down property to our kids. While this is vital, our legacy includes so much more than tangible assets. 

We intrinsically have valuable life lessons that we can pass along to our kids, which we’ve cultivated through our own successes and failures. However, it can be tricky to put these life lessons into words, especially if we feel none the wiser. 

Don’t worry - we’re here to help! Here is Trust & Will’s curation of important life lessons to pass on to your kids. Feel free to pick and choose your favorites and add supporting anecdotes from your own experiences.

Life lessons about kindness

Many philosophers, teachers, health experts, and other great minds will agree that living a life of kindness and compassion has many benefits. Kindness can provide health benefits, pleasure, and an overall positive experience in life. If anything, think of it as a way of increasing the points in your karmic bank.

Be kind. You never know what others are going through.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato

Imagine what a better world we’d live in if everyone lived by these words. Talk to your kids about adopting kindness as a way of life. You never really know what others are going through, and showing them kindness can make a profound difference in their day, and even in their life. 

If someone is rude to you, it could be because they are having a terrible day and didn’t have the capacity to show kindness. Don’t take things personally, and always do your best to be kind and empathetic. 

Do little things with great love

“But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

Many of us wish to make a difference in the world, but it can feel overwhelming and even discouraging if we don’t feel like we’re making great change. Instead, focus on doing little things with great love. Even if you don’t feel like small actions are making a significant impact, there is a ripple effect. It is the intention and intensity that we put into our everyday actions that brings meaning to life.

Life lessons About happiness

The world is obsessed with finding happiness. It is a joyous but elusive state, so much so that psychology has dedicated an entire branch of its studies to something called positive psychology. According to Psychology Today, individuals all over the globe rate happiness as the number one thing they want to achieve, over other goals such as amassing wealth or becoming famous. 

We can relieve a lot of pressure we put on ourselves by dismissing the idea that happiness is a constant state to be obtained. Rather, happiness can really only be experienced when we also experience sadness and discomfort. What we can control is pursuing and cultivating more happy experiences in our lives. Here are some important life lessons about increasing happiness. 

Cultivate gratitude

“It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” — David Steindl-Rast

Have you ever met a person who complains constantly, yet seems happy? You’re likely hard-pressed to think of someone. Many research studies have shown that cultivating an attitude of gratitude can significantly increase your personal happiness score. 

You don’t necessarily have to share your gratitude, you can start slowly by starting a daily gratitude practice or journal. This alone can improve your outlook on life and help you develop a “half glass full” attitude. When you feel comfortable, you can begin to share your gratitude toward others, such as your partner, family, friends, and colleagues. This is shown to cultivate positive, healthy relationships and further increase your happiness.

There is always a reason to smile

“There is always a reason to smile. You just have to find one.” ― DJ Kyos

The physical act of smiling can make you and other people feel more happy. It releases feel-good hormones such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. Not only that, smiles are contagious. When you smile at another person, they’ll often smile back, spreading these mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. In general, making a practice of smiling often will help build trust and boost your positive feelings. 

Take responsibility for your own joy

“Take responsibility of your own happiness; never put it in other people’s hands.” — Roy T. Bennett

Many individuals are codependent when it comes to happiness. They don’t realize that happiness comes from within, and rather, wait on other people to create happiness for them. Short-term happiness is valid; however, they are brought about by external factors that are fleeting. Intrinsic, long-term happiness must be cultivated from within.

Taking responsibility for your own joy takes practice to cultivate, but is so worth it. Practice developing an abundance and gratitude mindset, and let go of the things which you cannot control. 

Do the things that make you happy

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” —  Dalai Lama

There are so many external factors in life that we can’t control, which creates the very reason for why you should just do what makes you happy. If you constantly live a life where you’re seeking the approval of others, you’ll never be truly happy. By living in alignment with your own authentic desires, you’ll begin to focus much more on the positives than the negatives. 

If you’re not sure how to begin, start by increasing the number of activities that make you happy. By doing so, you’ll likely notice an uptick in your health, relationships, and productivity. You’ll also likely find that your sense of happiness is more sustainable. With practice, you’ll gain the confidence to tackle making the bigger changes to your life. 

Life lessons About health

Many would argue that the real wealth in life is being in good health. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with striving to be successful and achieving the lifestyle you desire. However, most material things in the world carry zero value if you aren’t of sound mind and body. In other words, being in good health is the foundation to living a happy and fulfilled life. 

Never feel bad about putting yourself first

“It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.” — Mandy Hale

Have you ever heard the analogy about the oxygen masks on airplanes? As a part of your pre-flight safety instructions, you’ll be told to always place an oxygen mask on yourself before you place one on others, including your own child. Have you thought about why?

If your child were to lose consciousness, they would still continue breathing. However, if you lost consciousness, how would you help them? Even if you somehow managed to get a mask on them before you passed out, what would happen next? 

This analogy is frequently used when it comes to self-care. If we constantly put the wellbeing of others before our own, we’ll eventually run into burnout. We can encounter fatigue, mood instability, or even health issues. This will render us less effective in our roles as parent, partner, colleague, etc.

While the culture around self-care is changing, many individuals still feel like taking time to take care of ourselves is selfish, and we might even feel shame or guilt. If you feel this way, pause and remind yourself about the oxygen mask rule. You won’t be able to help others if you don’t help yourself first. 

Do all things in moderation

“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” — Epicurus

While we certainly know that there can be too much of a bad thing, there can also be too much of a good thing. When it comes to health and wellness, we have a societal tendency to latch onto something prescribed as “good for us,” and overdo it. Being too strict or conscious of “being healthy” can lead to undue stress or even psychological conditions such as orthorexia nervosa. 

When it comes to your health, adopt a balanced mindset. Find systems that work for you that you can practice consistently without them creating added stress in your life.

You only get one body - take care of it

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn

We’re only given one body to use in this lifetime. If we abuse that body, we can’t simply cast it away and switch into our backup body. That’s why we need to take care of it. Healthline highlights 13 habits to incorporate if you wish to live a long, healthy life. 

Life lessons about love & family

As human beings, we have an innate drive to develop close relationships, whether it be with family, friends, or romantic partners. According to Northwestern Medicine, healthy relationships lead to a healthier, happier life. Strong, beneficial relationships lead to less stress, better healing, healthier behaviors, a longer life, and a stronger sense of purpose. With that said, here are some helpful lessons about love, family, and relationships. 

Your relationships in life are the most important thing - prioritize them

“Building a relationship is rare. Make the commitment wholeheartedly. Just do it and do it for both of you. Love doesn't have to be perfect, but it needs to be true.” ― Napz Cherub Pellazo

Relationships don’t happen automatically, and without time and effort, they can fade. Making an emotional connection with the important people in your life should always be a priority. Never stop getting to know them by asking them questions and respecting their feelings.

Give others the gift of your time

“Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. 

When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.” — Rick Warren

This quote by Rick Warren pretty much says it all. Time is something that we can never get back or make more of. In this sense, it’s one of our greatest resources. Simply giving others our time and undivided attention is one of the greatest gifts we can give; it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The greatest thing in life is the gift of loving and being loved

“What a grand thing, to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love!” ― Victor Hugo

According to Psychology Today, we are hard-wired with an intense desire to be loved. Scientific studies and experiments have determined that this desire is one of our most “basic and fundamental needs.” For instance, a newborn that is deprived from loving contact can grow up psychologically damaged. 

We also have a parallel need to love and care for others. Some scientists believe that this need is just as strong as the desire to be loved. Expressing love or compassion has just as many benefits for the person delivering it as it does for the person on the receiving end. 

Tell the people you love that you love them. 

“Loved you yesterday, love you still, always have, always will.” — Elaine Davis

According to Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps, simply feeling love isn’t enough - we also must take action to express our love toward others. One way to express our love is by simply telling people that we love them. However, there are many other ways to express our love as well. Learning about the 5 love languages is a great way to learn how to express love in different ways that are most appreciated by the recipient.  

Life lessons about finances & life planning

So far, we’ve discussed important life lessons regarding intrinsic values, such as love,  emotional health, and wellness. However, during our time on earth, we also very much need to take care of our basic needs in the material realm. Here are some lessons to impart to your children about finances and life planning.

Take risks, but take them smartly.

“I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.” — Jeff Bezos

The world’s most successful entrepreneurs have taken a considerable number of risks in their lifetime. The same applies to those who find financial success by investing. But doesn’t taking risks lead to failure? Not necessarily. Successful individuals rarely ever lay everything they have on the line. Instead, they take smart, calculated risks. 

Do not spend more than you earn

“There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means.” — Sophia Amoruso

Living within your means is the concept of spending less than you earn. Living this practice allows you to create a cushion for emergencies and save toward your life goals. This is often easier said than done (just take a look at our national consumer debt), especially if you have a penchant for instant gratification. Living within your means takes intention, practice, and dedication. Over time, however, you’ll be pleased at how much of a nest egg you can grow for yourself and your family. Having financial abundance is a significant stress reducer in life and allows you to take those vacations or buy that dream home.

Work to live, don’t live to work

“No one on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.” —  Paul Tsongas

If you’re not careful, it’s easy to fall victim to the hustle culture. According to Psychreg, living for your job can be toxic. The glorification of working too hard can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and severe anxiety. Eventually, this leads to decreased productivity, exhaustion, fatigue, and burnout that can have serious side-effects on your health.

Instead, strive to find work that you enjoy, but allows you to create boundaries where you can leave work at work and spend much of your life enjoying other activities. 

Prepare for the future - think about your estate plan

“Life is about accepting the challenges along the way, choosing to keep moving forward, and savoring the journey.”

  • Roy T. Bennett

Another important life lesson to talk to your kids about is to prepare for the future, as if the future were arriving tomorrow! When you’re young, you often feel invincible and don’t find it important or relevant to think about a future day when you could become seriously ill or pass away. Nevertheless, it’s critical to get your affairs in order in case anything unexpected were to happen.

Estate planning activities are on the rise amongst Millennials and Gen Z, meaning that our youngest generations are embracing technology and driving the industry. Platforms such as Trust & Will are making estate planning much more accessible in multiple ways. First, our online platform allows individuals to create their estate plans easily from the comfort of their own home. Second, it removes the requirement to hire an expensive estate planning attorney. Last but not least, our educational resources help estate planning newbies to gain an understanding of how to plan their estates from an informed and empowered place. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning and settlement  options today!

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