What is your role in the family? Are you the oldest or the baby? Are you the clown or the serious one? Are you the planner/organizer or the one who goes-with-the-flow? Are you the caretaker or do you require being taken care of? Rescuer or the rescued? Leader or follower?
I was intrigued when asked to lead a four-hour group session with an entire family. What would I do with a family ages 15-50? Would they participate or rebel? Why was I being invited on this journey?
Short answer: I said yes and it was quite an experience. (If you want to experience this, I have added it to the bottom of this page on my website. It is listed as 4 hours, but we can tailor the time frame.)
Creating a Safe Environment
We began with a warm-up for learning and my top 5 strategies. Repetition reinforces neural networks, so we scaffolded the top 5 with a role play scenario. Mom shared a time she was stressed (gasp) and the kids offered supportive strategies to cope with the stressful memory. This was a hoot—the stressor involved dog poop and a car. The kids used laughter and yawning to get the mom belly breathing!
Next was a BONUS strategy to my Top 5. We went outside and did some cooperative activities to support vision, body awareness, trusting our partner, etc. Inside everyone had a morning snack.
Usually in a one-on-one session, we spend 60-90 minutes in a 5-step process called a balance. In this group session, we spent the first 2 hours gaining trust and feeling safe in the group, since I was the intruder in this family system. During these trust building activities, I was indirectly assessing each person as well as the dynamics of the family unit.
No Judgment or Coercion
We entered a balance process where everyone worked together on a group goal. There was elaborate sharing and blunt refusal. Anything was acceptable—no judgment or coercion. After goal setting, we did some activities to notice our physical reactions to the goal. In Brain Gym lingo, these are called Pre-Activities.
By this point, we had already experienced over TEN new activities on a Saturday morning! I brought along about 5 additional activities and we made it through 3 of them. What were they?
- The Double Doodle was experienced as an individual activity because it is individuals who make up a family. Each got to do their own artwork without judgment or mandatory sharing. There was fabulous support along the way.
- Massage tools-just in case anyone was tactile defensive but still wanted to enjoy some proprioceptive activities. These were hugely popular with a couple of family members.
- The Lazy 8 track is a wonderful tool to engage focus, control of movement and the visual system—again, enjoyed by some but not all.
We ended our learning time with a family Double Doodle choo-choo train. Everyone willingly joined the choo-choo. Why do I tell you this? Remember each person in a family holds a role. Oldest, youngest, etc. The “Pleaser” of the family responded YES to everything I suggested. But there was also the “Skeptic” and the “Crowd Controller”. And then there was “I’m too old for this” and “Mr. Emotional” who yells, stomps, and growls. Yet, each person brought their family role to the choo-choo train. There was giving and there was receiving. There was silence and there was laughter. There was stability within the movement. This was a moment of magic (in my mind)!
Here is a group of 5 people. 2 middle aged adults. 3 “kids” ranging from 15-25 years old, each with diagnoses, challenges and trauma-filled backgrounds. That’s a lot of potential emotional tension.
Celebrating with Family Lunch Prep
In the end, we rechecked the Three Dimensions (Laterality, Centering and Focus) and noted positive changes. We selected homeplay for the coming week. As I bid my farewell, they were celebrating with dad cooking Saturday lunch. All were starving…growing the brain and working the body is hard work!
Did I lecture? No. Did I share everything I noticed and/or crossed my consciousness? No. Did we identify family roles? No.
What did we do? We learned playful strategies. We experienced positive results.
We had a follow-up session a month later and we have another one scheduled for spring 2022.
My role is often one of “Steadfast Familiarity”. Agreeing to lead a ½ day Family Session was a risk; it was something new that pushed me into new and unfamiliar territory. I grew along with my clients!
Family Sessions are replicable. I’d love to facilitate a Family Session for you!
© 2021 Cindy Goldade, In-Motion Intelligence