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Family magic circles

A story of Local Response by Virginie-Anne Andrieux

In my difficult task as a mother, my husband, Stephen, and I agreed that we needed to improve the dialogue with our children. We had the opportunity to share our thoughts with some discussion groups on personal development, which opened us to some alternative educational possibilities.

Based on what we had learned together, we decided to set up a family magic circle, which is the phrase that we had decided to give to these exercises.

Full of enthusiasm, we gathered around a table to discuss with our children the principles and rules for the exercise. We hoped to meet once or twice a month for an exchange between members of our family. Everyone had the right to raise anything that was going well or whatever was not going so well without regard to authority or hierarchy. Everyone would be free to speak or to keep silent, we would not interrupt each other and we would respect the questions that were asked, what was said and what was shared. Our aim was to set goals, to regulate conflicts and to organize better family communication.

We all agreed to this and were ready to move forward.

The circles took place with varying regularity. Our exchanges were rich, but after a few circles, Stéphane and I felt that there was something that was not working well. The children never suggested that we should make a circle; even worse, they were not motivated.

In addition, our exchanges were often very limited, and sometimes even poorer than they had been before. We were disappointed by the outcome: we had wanted to communicate with our children and to provide opportunities for them to have the same role as the adults. We had thought that there would be more communication than before. It simply didn’t work out that way.

One day, our youngest child Faustine came to us angry and said that she was disappointed that we no longer held the magic circles. She said that there was no longer a way for he speak when things were not ok!

We were both surprised and happy and we explained briefly why we no longer held the magic circles.

And then, against all expectations, the children spoke from their heart. They told us that they were not satisfied, because every time it was us who were proposing (even imposing) what we did. We always ran the circles. It was clear that we thought that they did not have the capacity to keep a record of our meetings. And Faustina, who was just 6 years old, added, “I may not be able to write but I know how to draw!"

And so we changed things. We have created a new space. In particular, we have created a COMMON LANGUAGE, where everyone can express themselves in their own way, in speech or dance, or with drawings.

The children have grown up now. We no longer have the circles. But even as I write this story, I think that from time to time we might come together to share another magic circle...

When our children felt they had some ownership of our conversation, they engaged with us (their parents).

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