I was writing a talk on helping parents get to know their children on a deeper level, when I realised this was a great strategy to use for improving conversational skills as well, for children and adults!

Circles of communication is a technique to help deepen conversations between you and your child but also helps your children learn great conversational skills as well.

It builds on reflective listening and involves opening and closing circles instead of creating new strings of conversation. The child opens a circle by initiating a conversation about a topic, and the parent responds to the topic by reflecting or commenting on it. The child then responds on the same topic. The pattern continues until the circle is closed. For example:

Child: “Isaac and Kiera got in a fight today at school”

Parent: “Oh, that sounds big. What was the fight about?”

Child: “Kiera tried to steal the ball from Isaac during footy and he kicked her”

Parent: “What do you think?”

Child: “I think they shouldn’t take it seriously. It’s just a game”.

This might seem pretty simple but many parents who are busy and stressed may not concentrate on conversations enough to hold meaningful interactions.  Here’s how a typical conversation might go:

Child: “Isaac and Kiera got in a fight today at school”

Parent: “Did they? What do you want for dinner? I’ve got to get your brother to basketball so we have to have it early”

Child: “Can I stay home? I don’t feel like going”

Parent: “Ok, Dad will be home soon so that’s fine. Do you have any homework?”

Child: “Ms Stevens is stupid. She gives the dumbest homework”.


Here is another example of the Circles of Communication technique:

Child: “I want to quit clarinet”

Parent: “Oh, really. It sounds like you’re not enjoying it anymore?”

Child: “No. I’m not very good at it”

Parent: “What makes you think that?”

Child: “Cos Sarah and Bridgette can play heaps of songs and I can only play dumb nursery rhymes”

Parent: “So you think because they can play more songs than you, that makes you not very good at it?”

Child: “Yeah. But they’ve been playing for a year”

Parent: “SO they’ve been playing for a lot longer than you and can play more songs?”

Child: “Yeah” (smiles). “I guess if I had been playing that long I would know heaps of songs too”

Parent: “So you think if you have some more time, you might get just as good as Sarah and Bridgette?”

Child: “Yeah! I’m going to go get my clarinet now. Can I show you the song I learned today?”


Why not start with trying for one meaningful conversation a day and see what difference it makes. Good communication will help strengthen the bond you have with your child and can help avoid future relationship and behavioural problems.


If you would like professional help to develop conversational skills, or to connect on a deeper level, with your child, please contact Play Therapy Melbourne to discuss how we can help you.

Play Therapy Melbourne has psychologists and counsellors who specialise in child counselling across Melbourne, including Eltham.

Ray, D. (2011). Advanced play therapy: Essential conditions, knowledge and skills for child practice. NY, New York, Routledge.