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The Power of Family Work

Participating in three family workshops in East Africa with Chuck Esser (the International Commonality Reference Person for Family Work) gave me a fresh perspective on the power of family work as a vehicle for teaching the fundamentals of RC.

The workshops were quite different: (1) a daylong workshop, without children, on the topic of family work with a group of South Sudanese refugees in Northern Uganda;
(2) a play day with Co-Counselors and children in Kampala, Uganda; and (3) a three-day workshop in Tanzania to which local children came in the middle of the day for four hours. But in each case I was struck by how a focus on family work gets to the heart of RC theory and practice:

  • Exchanging special time with each other as adults (in preparation for giving it to children) demonstrates using the attention of another person in present time.
  • Giving special time to children helps us be in the present moment and notice and appreciate human connection. At the same time, our early experiences of being disconnected and defeated often come to the surface and become available for discharge.
  • Following the lead of young people requires us to question assumptions about who should have power and makes issues of oppression real and immediate.
  • In our quest to become better parents, we see the logic of looking at our own earliest experiences with our own parents. Thus we are motivated to work on our earliest hurts.
  • Our desire to do the best we can with our children helps us to keep our goodness at the center. As we root ourselves in our goodness, it becomes easier to have perspective on our struggles, and the struggles of our parents.

In all of these ways, the focus on family work helped relatively new Co-Counselors experience and appreciate the depth and power of RC theory and practice.


Pamela Haines

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


Last modified: 2019-05-13 15:12:23+00