General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Empowering Children as Peace-Makers with Compassionate Communication

Veronica Lassen, speaking into a microphone.
Veronica Lassen

General Assembly 2008 Event 5008

Presented by Debbie Grieb and Veronica Lassen. Sponsored by the General Assembly Planning Committee.

Debbie Grieb and Veronica Lassen have developed the new Heart Talk for Kids© curriculum, which introduces Compassionate Communication (also known as Nonviolent Communication, or NVC), and shows us how meeting universal human needs forms the basis for peace in ourselves, our families, and the world.

Participants explored ways to empower children and parents to work together to meet their needs, to experience the Heart Talk for Kids© curriculum in mutuality, and to discover ways to live Unitarian Universalist values at home, work, school and in the world.

In the workshop, the authors invited participants to consider “What is peace?” for you, personally. How does it feel? What basic needs are met when you are at peace? Then they were invited to consider what peace felt like for one other person—a fellow participant.

From this exercise, participants could begin to see how anyone who is at peace, including a child, can bring that harmony into interpersonal interactions in a way that will help to create peace and harmony in the interaction. This led to insight into how families might resolve conflicts while respecting the needs of both children and adults.

Three key concepts of Compassionate Communication were considered in depth:

  • The intention of Compassionate Communication is to connect with others. It is about creating trust and seeing the value of each person so that together we can find ways to meet all our needs.
  • Conflict occurs only on the level of strategies, never on the level of needs.
  • We can resolve conflicts and create peace when we tune in to feelings and needs. Then we can create strategies together that meet all our needs. This is having “power with” other people, not “power over” others.

In introducing the Heart Talk for Kids© curriculum, the authors asked the participants to play a “feelings triangle” game. To set up the game, signs reading “fear,” “anger,” and “sorrow” were posted, one on each of three walls of the room. Then the participants were asked to move toward the sign which most closely expressed the primary feeling they experienced in reaction to a triggering situation such as “Your Mommy is 30 minutes late to pick you up, you are alone, and you don’t have a way to call her.” Learning occurred as participants felt themselves pulled toward one or more of the posted feelings and as they observed that not everyone felt the same way they did.

The Heart Talk for Kids© curriculum and other Compassionate Communication materials for children are available from Heart Vistas.

For more information on the international movement and projects around the world, or to read the first chapter of Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, visit the Center for Nonviolent Communication.

Reported by Bill Lewis; edited by Dana Dwinell-Yardley.