As November rapidly approaches, opportunities for connecting with family, practicing gratitude, and gathering abound. During the holiday season, both parents and children may be prone to overwhelm and stress. There’s so much going on! In today’s article, I share a truly transformational tool for communicating within your family. Not only can it be used as a way of having fun family conversation or processing tensions, it can also be used during extended family reunions or at holiday events. I’m also excited to share this tool after all the work you’ve been doing to support your tween/teen through the tough stuff! This will be another way to support the relationship-building work you’ve been focused on. <3
Have you ever had a miscommunication between family members that evolved into a yelling match? Have you said something that another family member was hurt by? Have you ever walked away from a family conversation with tears in your eyes because you didn’t feel heard?
Families are dynamic, ever-changing, and encompass a wide range of perspectives and preferences. Restorative Practices, a co-created system for family-community-building and conflict management, can be powerful, healing tools for families.
“The fundamental unifying hypothesis of restorative practices is disarmingly simple: that human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.”
Restorative Practices are tangible and recyclable tools that families can use to create open communication and increase bonds. They can be used to build upon and renew a strong, loving foundation of community within the home.
When “harms” or “hurts” come up (like the ones in the first paragraph, which we’ve likely all experienced at one time or another), the family has a go-to, comfortable method to turn to for conflict management. As a Child-Centered Coach for Teens and Parents, I share Restorative Practices, a.k.a. “Circles,” with families of school-aged children; I guide them in building and facilitating productive family circles.
Today, I share the “Family-Building Circle 101” with you:
Core Elements Circle + The Philosophy of the Circle:
Circle- A circle quite literally promotes connectedness, as there is no end and no beginning. In a circle, we can see everyone equally. If we all sit in chairs, or all sit on the floor, we sit at the same level, which is symbolic of shared and equal power. Children and teens are most often seated while adults or authority figures (at home, school, or in the community) stand, asserting authority. Thus, sitting at the same level represents that all family members are worthy of the same respect and have the same opportunity to express themselves. “Circle” is also the name of the intentional conversation-based activity we engage in while sitting in a circle. i.e. “We had a circle about our favorite hobbies.”
Talking Piece- One object (that can be handled safely and easily) is designated as the talking piece for each circle. This object indicates that only one person will talk at a time, and, equally importantly, everyone else will actively listen. Everyone in the circle has the right to pass, but the talking piece will always travel the circle in order. Thus, if you have a response to the first person that spoke, you wait until the talking piece is passed to you. Talking pieces may be symbolic of the family and their unique interests; for example, a family that plays tennis may use a tennis ball. A talking piece may also align with the topic of a specific circle; for example, a circle about hobbies might incorporate a beautiful rock that was collected on a family hike. Child-selected (or created!) talking pieces are also a great opportunity for promoting your child’s sense of agency, or power to contribute, in the family. They might like to select a favorite toy, a comfort item, or a favorite book to share with the family. The options are endless and open to your creativity!
Rounds– This is the name of one pass around the circle. Family building circles are often pre-planned and centered on one topic; in this case, all “rounds” will be centered on the topic. In the instance of a conflict resolution circle, a series of reparative questions guide the family through naming the “harm” that has been felt and, most importantly, making a plan for repairing or rebuilding. (E-mail me for examples of these questions.) The talking piece helps regulate the round, offering each person equal opportunity to listen and speak.
Values- It is important to understand what each member of the family circle values. We use these values to guide and inform how we will engage with one another during the circle process (and moving forward from the circle). Values allow each family member to identify what they hold dear, what they need, and what is important to them in order to feel safe.
Facilitator- While all members of the family will be participants in the circle, one member may be the facilitator of a particular circle. This person will read the prompt or question for each round. They may also be the person that planned the circle ahead of time. Facilitation opens the opportunity for children to lead their family into important conversation.
As you begin using circles often, perhaps even on a weekly basis on a designated day, with the intention of building family community, you and your family will develop a strong sense of trust, communication, and openness. Thus, when conflict arises, and you want to come to circle to resolve it, you already have a strong foundation and positive emotional history to build from. E-mail me for a free template and model for a family building circle to get started today!
STAY TUNED to the blog because next week, I have an incredible guest for you.
She’ll be sharing all about talking sticks, special, intentional talking pieces you can create and use in circles.