Chuck Esser—International Commonality Reference Person for Family Work

Family Work

RC family work continues to have great benefits. It helps build strong RC Communities. It also functions as an important personal re-emergence strategy. People learn how to put aside their distresses as they pay attention to young people. They get in touch with and discharge early childhood distresses that would otherwise go unchallenged.

Young people are always ready to use our attention to move their lives forward. We keep getting better at judging how much resource we can offer them without being overwhelmed.


The current period is full of new challenges and intense questioning. Many people are discharging on not having children, because of the kind of world, including the seriously compromised climate, their children would face. Parents and allies are preparing the next generation for challenges that they themselves never experienced.

Special time, play days for young people, play days for adults, and family workshops all work well and look similar everywhere. We have created a great model. Still, each family workshop presents new challenges. For example, a family of color was stopped by police on the way to a recent workshop. As soon as the play started, their son wanted to play “stopped by the police” and be the severe policeman. Everyone watching got to work on racism. When we follow their lead, young people will show us how the society is affecting them.

It has been challenging to talk to young people about the oppressive society and what we in RC understand about the world. Adults are having sessions on the issues they hope their children will not bring up and are finding ways to talk with their children about them. Adult groups have met to discharge on suicide, war, genocide, racism, sexism, male domination, men’s oppression, Transgender issues, sex, drugs, self abuse, and staying safe around police.

War and the effects of war present big challenges to families in some parts of the world. Many parents did not have peaceful childhoods or opportunities to play—things that are often taken for granted in other parts of the world—so we have needed to provide them with opportunities to play. Sometimes parents who are in their early teens show up at play days. Sometimes ever-present fears about war and genocide lead to war games and fights.

We have held a number of constituency-based family workshops and play days—for example, for girls, boys, Indigenous people, African-heritage people, Jews, Chicanos/as, Asian-heritage people, adoptive families, LGBTQ family workers, and young people with disabilities. Without being as restimulated by the oppression, the participants get a chance to shine and dominate.

We are learning how to work on internalized oppressions in a safe environment and develop leaders from the various constituencies. We are learning how to be better allies and prepare young people for life in the oppressive society.

As we conduct teen family workshops and young people’s liberation workshops and work with allies, we keep figuring out how young people can move from family work to RC Community membership. The young people generally succeed with the transition, but not enough Communities offer fundamentals classes that effectively support young people in their Co-Counseling. This is a place we need to grow.

Family work is a collective project. Teams work together and think about all its aspects—the parents, the play, heavy sessions, the allies, young people’s liberation, sticking with young people, building RC Communities. This is happening in many Communities in an organized and increasingly connected way. Teams have been forming (or reforming) in Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Israel, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. The Liberation Reference Persons for Young People, Young Adults, Parents, Family Work, and Allies to Young People have conference calls together, as we are all working on the same project in overlapping ways.

We now have the resource and experience to assist, every step of the way, Communities that are new to or rebuilding family work. Skype and conference calls are immensely helpful. We have even modeled over Skype playing with young people and helping them discharge. Then the local adults discharge with each other.

What we want and what is possible are still far apart. Ideally each young person at a workshop or play day has at least one parent and one ally who are there for him or her. So far this is only possible in places with many middle- and owning-class families and in well-developed RC Communities in big cities.

We are figuring out how to think about whole families and what we can do for large families and families that live far apart from each other in rural areas. We have had play days and family workshops for just one family. The parent brings all the children, and there are lots of allies. This has made a big difference for that family, but it has not built much resource for other families. We need to find new ways to keep family work growing when travel is expensive or difficult.

Parents and other adults want everything for the young people they care about. They want the best help, and sometimes they can’t see themselves as a resource that can be developed.

As the society collapses, families, and connection itself, are coming under attack. Worried parents want things to happen quickly. Sometimes people bring four or five family members, or their children’s friends, to family workshops and play days. Sometimes young people arrive unexpectedly. The young people still have a great time, often because they’ve rarely had any adults play with and think about them, but these situations don’t work well for the adults or for building resource in the RC Community.

Family work can only be sustained in a Community when the related work with parents and allies is going well and the Community values and supports work with young people. This takes time to develop.


Our Communities need to grow, and family work is one of the most powerful ways to teach and spread RC. We need many more family-work and parent leaders. We need to teach about family work in fundamentals and ongoing classes, and make it part of our personal re-emergence and strategy for societal change.

Chuck Esser

International Commonality Reference Person for Family Work

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

(Present Time 188, July 2017)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00