The Circle of Security is a user-friendly, visually based (makes extensive use of both graphics and video clips) approach to helping parents better understand the needs of their children. It is based extensively on attachment theory and current affective neuroscience.
Parenting is life’s most important work. Sometimes children’s behaviour can be confusing, disagreeable, aggressive or frightening. It can be even more difficult for parents when children do the same unwanted behaviour repeatedly and don’t seem to learn from their mistakes.
The Circle can help parents find the key and unlock the mystery to difficult child behaviours, giving parents renewed feelings of success and confidence. In fact, it helps all of us as parents feel the way we want to feel toward our children: Bigger, Stronger, Wiser and Kind.
Central to this program is a user-friendly map of child behaviour and emotions (see below). Using this map helps parents answer the questions:
- “Why does my child behave that way?”
- “What does she need?”
- “How can I best help him grow up?”
The Circle is based on 50 years of research and is being used worldwide to help children be happier and more responsive to their parents, develop self-control, get along better with friends and teachers, and grow to be competent in adolescence and adulthood.
The goals of the intervention are:
- To teach the basics of attachment theory through the Circle of Security;
- To increase parent skills in observing parent-child interactions.
- To increase the parents’s capacity to recognize and sensitively respond to children’s needs;
- To increase the parent’s ability to reflect on their own and their child’s behaviour, thoughts and feelings;
- To introduce the parent to a user-friendly way to explore defensive process and how best to work with it.
The first phase of the intervention involves an assessment. The therapist will meet with the parents or caregivers to learn more about the problem they are experiencing with their child and the family history. The assessment also utilizes the ‘Strange Situation’ procedure to observe the attachment relationship between a caregiver and child.
In this procedure of the strange situation the child is observed playing for 20 minutes while caregivers and strangers enter and leave the room, recreating the flow of the familiar and unfamiliar presence in most children’s lives.
Following the assessment, the therapist uses video tapes of parent-child interaction to enhance the parents’ knowledge of attachment, play, and the management of child behaviour and emotions. Parents learn about the user-friendly map and practice identifying children’s needs and how children signal their needs, as well as patterns of interaction. Parents are also assisted to learn how to manage their own emotions when their child is misbehaving.
An important goal is to assist parents to learn to meet their child’s needs and shape their behaviour, and thereby fostering a more secure attachment with their child.
Typical goals of Circle of Security intervention are to help parents and caregivers:
- Foster more secure attachments between parents and their child;
- Discover what is going on inside their child during times of upset and misbehaviour;
- Determine what the child needs in the moment to be able to calm down, listen, and learn;
- Choose an approach to meet their child’s needs and shape their behaviour;
- Experience more love, cooperation, and joy from their child;
- Feel happier and more successful with their child;
- To increase the likelihood that their child will develop along a healthier pathway toward more competence and self-reliance.
Who Would Benefit from Circle of Security?
Birth parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, or any caregiver of a child or adolescent would benefit from the Circle of Security. It is a very useful therapy for families where their child may be at risk of entering foster care, or presently is in foster care and a reunification plan is being considered.