International Day of Families: A Guide to Reflection and Connection

International Day of Families: The Background

In 1993, after more than a decade of integrating a focus on families, the United Nations General Assembly decided that May 15 of every year would be observed as International Day of Families. This day is dedicated to growing awareness of diverse issues relating to families.

One major objective of this specially marked day is for our larger governing bodies, institutions, and organizations to acknowledge the complex ways they impact and influence families. That being said, it is an acknowledgement of the ways that social, economic and demographic systems and structures impact families.

Furthermore, International Day of Families invites these organizations to recognize their responsibility to support, nourish, nurture, respect, and protect families. This year, 2018, the theme for International Day of Families is “Families and Inclusive Societies,” which aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #16.

Inclusion in the Family Community

Society is simply another word for community, and a family is a type of community. Communities have a responsibility to be inclusive. This requires intention, conversation, dedication, and maintenance– just like your family!

Communities, big and small, must adopt practices that promote inclusion. For example, at the family level, restorative circles are reusable, recyclable practices that bring all members of a family community together. Circles allow each member to have a voice and require mutual respect.

I share the practice of circles with my clients and with other professionals who work with families and children. Specifically, I teach the values of this system: each member is valuable; each member deserves space to share, listen, process, learn, and grow; each member honors and cares for themselves and one another; each member has a responsibility to participate; each member will think, act, and behave with kindness to the best of their ability. Each of these values promotes and requires inclusion!

The experience of restorative circles benefits each family and each individual in it by encouraging active engagement in the system. Moreover, circles teach children and teens, especially, that they have agency in their lives and communities, including but not limited to, the family. This deep sense of empowerment, then, allows children and teens to feel comfortable taking up space in intentional ways; they are included and valuable.

The Community Connection

Restorative circles not only teach each family member to have and use their voice, they encourage and demand authentic listening and mutual respect for oneself and one another. When children and teens (and adults too) have powerful experiences of sharing responsibility in their families, they enter their schools, neighborhoods, cities, religious communities, and beyond with a skill set that promotes collaborative problem-solving and connection. THIS is inclusion!

Father Gregory Boyle is one of my greatest role models and teachers. His message is one of love and the highest level of inclusion– kinship: “It’s connection and kinship that ultimately heals people.” When we treat one another as kin, when we are inclusive, we grow– individually and collectively. In other words, when we build a community of inclusion, we all thrive.

When I hear the phrase “peaceful and inclusive society,” I imagine all members having equal amounts of space and voice. I imagine each member showing up fully with passion, interest, and commitment. Essentially, I imagine a massive, dynamic circle! What do you imagine?

Reflecting on the Family and Extended Communities

As a Life Coach for Teens and Parents, I support families on building pathways to Connected Hearts, trust, and communication. I am constantly facilitating conversations about what “family” means to each individual, as well as what the experience of the family community is like for all members. Pause for a moment and consider how you define the term family. Hold an image (or multiple) of your family in your mind.

Today, I’m excited to share with you a reflection guide that you use as a parent, caregiver, or educator. In addition, you can share this tool with your family to create rich, thought-provoking conversations with your family and extended communities. Feel free to get out the paper and coloring utensils as you sketch, write, draw, and express your thoughts in response to the following questions.

  1. What does peaceful mean to you?
  2. What does inclusive mean to you?
  3. What does a peaceful and inclusive family look like, sound like, and feel like to you?
  4. How do you contribute to a peaceful, inclusive family?
  5. What does a peaceful and inclusive society look like, sound like, and feel like to you?
  6. How do you contribute to a peaceful, inclusive society?

On International Day of Families and Beyond

I invite you to notice the ways you contribute to each community you are a part of; keep making space for your children and teens to consider their part too. As you explore, notice how you contribute, observe the ways you live out the values of circles and inclusion, and celebrate the connections you are creating.

It is my hope that circles and this reflection guide can support your family or any other community you wish to share it with. Consider modifying the questions above to align with other values your family or extended community may want to explore. For instance, you might like to explore values such as joy and responsibility or passion and diversity.

Finally, In honor of Intentional Day of Family, let us set intentions for engaging with the intention of being inclusive and welcoming to all those we interact with. Reach out to me if you’d like support on getting started!

  As a Life Coach for Teens and Parents, Courtney supports tweens, teens, and young adults in finding their voice, growing confidence, and thriving. Through 1:1 and small group coaching sessions, teens and tweens are able to overcome anxiety, disconnect, and isolation as they explore their truest sense of self and develop a deep sense of empowerment. Courtney supports parents in practicing self-care, growing alongside their children, and developing balanced sensitivity towards the process their rapidly-changing child is creating. Through Intentional Parents of Tweens and Teens, an online membership for parents of adolescents, Courtney offers parents the time and space to learn, grow, problem-solve, and relate to one another in a supportive community. Sessions with Courtney lovingly guide families in developing the trust, communication, and connection that’s crucial for a life of ease.

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