Spirit of a Parent Circle

Ideally, parents should gather in the spirit of curiosity and openness, showing respect for different views and values. In most situations, there is no single correct answer or way to act. By meeting together, parents can get to know one another, expand their knowledge, strengthen their skills and increase their understanding.

If parents choose to share personal information or worries about especially challenging situations, members of the group should maintain confidentiality. Adopting a respectful and non-critical attitude is important. It is vital to create a sense of comfort and safety for participants.

Sometimes it can be useful to raise issues anonymously. Parents can write down the situations they have confronted or might soon face on paper or index cards. The cards can be shuffled and handed out. People can take turns reading them, sharing ideas and responses. They can discuss the pros and cons of each response, as well as their possible short- and long-term consequences.

Parents can “role play” and rehearse different situations and responses, and potential outcomes so they can “try on” different ways of acting.

Another possibility is to invite groups of children to serve as consultants or teachers. For example, in my local elementary school, the guidance counselors have been teaching conflict resolution skills to several grades. At the next meeting of the kindergarten through third grade parents circle, children demonstrated the skills they learned, teaching us and guiding us in role-playing activities.

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