TOM Greder's novel form of play can help improve relations within the family. PARENTS are used to trying to juggle their lives around their jobs, homes and children. But with the circus school coming to town, some are taking to juggling for real. Parents, children and professionals who deal with children can learn juggling, clowning and other circus acts. According to the aficionados it can relieve stress - both among adults and children - improve co-ordination and posture and even promote self-esteem. Businessman Albert Sum and his 10-year-old son Richard attend a circus skills workshop one evening a week at the Fringe Club. They join an assorted group of performers honing their skills, young people who might normally be seen on a skateboard and professionals, many of whom think this is the ideal way to relieve the pressure of a working day. As Mr Sum says: ''By learning juggling a child discovers that what at first seems very difficult, can with practice be learnt and mastered. When they grow up they realise that nothing is impossible. This is true of business and it is true of studies: youcan be anything if you concentrate hard enough.'' Not that Richard needed to be persuaded. To be a juggler or walk on stilts for a day fires the imagination. ''It's fun,'' his son says briefly without taking his eyes off the balls overhead. Later, he says his concentration has improved at school and he has been doing better at exams. So strong is the mystique of the circus, even if children have never seen one, they take to it with enthusiasm. And that is why it is such a useful tool for teaching and breaking down barriers, says Tom Greder, a Swiss-born Australian entertainer and teacher of circus skills who today begins a series of workshops in Kowloon Tong. The idea of the workshops, conducted in association with the charity Playright, is to use circus skills in training social workers, educators and others who work with children, so that they can create a relaxing stress-free environment. Children who are stressed at school and have no opportunity to play, because in Hong Kong it is associated with idleness, can learn to unwind and play with their parents. ''When I was doing my own exams at university I would stop and juggle and empty my mind while all the others would cram still more into their already tired brains,'' said Mr Greder. ''I felt refreshed when I tackled my exams.'' ''Circus skills are active, creative, multi-disciplinary,'' says Mr Greder. ''Juggling is a continuous rhythmical exercise which requires concentration. It's almost a form of meditation. An enjoyable form of meditation.'' Researchers have discovered that children brought up in Hong Kong have much poorer co-ordination than children in other Asian or Western countries where there is space to run around and play. The good thing about circus skills, such as juggling, is that they require very little equipment and space. Mr Greder first trained in Australia where he gained a degree in human movement before learning juggling and clowning in Switzerland and Britain. ''Most people [with this degree] intend to go on to teach physical education. But when I went to the US with my parents and saw the flying Karamazov Brothers [a well-known US trapeze troupe in San Francisco] I got goose bumps. From then on I was thoroughly convinced that was what I was going to do,'' says Mr Greder. He is largely self-taught, attending short courses and workshops wherever he could, and practising on the streets of Europe. Why not run away to the circus as young boys have done since time immemorial? ''No circus would have taken me without making me clean up camel dung and other tasks that have little to do with performing. Instead I became my own circus,'' he says. Mr Greder incorporates many techniques learnt from his association with performers from the Shanghai Circus School into his workshops. The Chinese artistes are technically among the best in the world. ''They are very inspiring,'' he says. He has previously been involved in a project with street children in Brisbane, many of them on drugs or sniffing glue. The project aimed to get them occupied and motivated. ''Juggling has almost instantaneous results in terms of self-esteem,'' he says. ''It is easy to do simply but difficult to do well. You can surprise an audience within five minutes and in the next five minutes you can get them to surprise themselves. If you can get children juggling within 10 minutes, you have basically won them over.'' But circus arts are not just about juggling. In a project involving remote schools in Australia the circus team got children involved in making costumes, doing make up, inventing and scripting routines and performing. In the US some multi-national corporations run juggling workshops to motivate their staff, using it as an exercise in determination and ambition. Mr Greder is keen to teach circus skills to parents with problem children, social workers, doctors, nurses and others who work with children in hospitals. ''But juggling should not be regarded as just another form of alternate therapy,'' warns Mr Greder. The main thing is for both children and adults to play more and to play together. ''Adults and even children just don't play enough. Juggling is a wonderful form of play.''