Through the process of talking to one another, children become creators of their own future as they collaborate and build relationships. Talking circles are designed to encourage children to ask questions about their lives and how they can make a difference for themselves, each other and their community. This process helps to build the resilience and leadership skills of children. These qualities are important to help children consider day-to-day challenges and further contribute to their sense of wellbeing.
If we view children as strong, capable individuals who co-construct their own experience, we as children's services educators, in conjunction with parents, are providing children with the skills to deal with the society with all its current issues. This chapter explores a concept called ‘talking circles’, which can be used to build relationships between children and adults, and help children understand their everyday experiences. First, the structure and process of the talking circle is defined. Second, the importance of talking circles to the wellbeing of children is discussed. Finally, it outlines the range of strategies that can be used within talking circles to foster and support children's abilities to engage in conversations with other children and adults. These strategies form the basis of the talking circles and, when used on a regular basis in school classrooms and child-care settings, have a profound influence on children's wellbeing.
Talking Circle Process Defined
The talking circle process is an effective way to build relationships both between adults and children, and between children. It is a process that helps to develop communication skills (including talking and listening) to build strong and responsive relationships between adults and children.
Talking circles provide children and adults with a safe environment in which to practise their relationship-building. Being provided with opportunities to develop relationships is critical to children's wellbeing. The talking circle process strengthens children's capacity to negotiate, problem-solve and show empathy towards their peers. Further, establishing and maintaining relationships is made possible in the talking circle through the capacity of the adult educator to create a safe space and the necessary time for children and adults to establish a sense of connection with each other.
The talking circle process is underpinned by a children's rights perspective. The process is designed to help adults to uphold the children's rights to participate in matters that effect them.