Circle of Security

The Circle of Security helps us to understand more about why children behave the way they do – giving an insight into child development, attachment theory and the role that early intervention can play.

What is the Circle of Security?

The Circle of Security is an intervention program designed to improve the developmental pathway of children and their parents. The program offers pathways for providing secure relationships for parents and children. Here’s everything that you need to know about the involvement of Circle of Security in early childhood education.

Circle of Security
1998 Cooper, Hoffman, Marvin & Powell

The Importance of Circle of Security

The Circle of Security is an active research program for children and parents who have attachment difficulties. The purpose of The Circle of Security is for early childhood professionals to analyze a child’s immediate behavior and aid them with genuine relationship needs.

The space forms secure opportunities for children to meet these relationship goal needs. The network supports a wide range of families who raise children and adolescents. The main focus of the Circle of Security program is for families to make a better approach to disrupted relationships and attachment difficulties because of developmental issues.

  • Other Features Include:
  • Conduct judgment-free discussions about behaviour with children and parents
  • A better approach to reach children who have difficulty connecting
  • Build stronger emotional links during the transition times
  • Understanding of the emotional map to improve on practice
  • Develop better social skills for children
Circle of Security
‘Watch over me’ or ‘Help me’ part of the Circle of Security, with reference to above diagram

Who is this Program For?

The Circle of Security program is designed for children aged 1-12 years. The program helps parents of children build secure relationships. For example, if children have a hard time interacting with parents or kids of the same age, the program offers a supportive environment to share thoughts and ideas.

The Circle of Security Protocol was specifically designed to be research-driven as evidence-based assessment procedures. The program yields specific intervention goals based on assessment procedures. They also focus on interventions on the caregiver as the partnership is more likely to induce change –

How Do the Services Begin?

First, children and parents have to complete what is known as an attachment assessment. After completion of the attachment assessment, data is collected and reviewed by a certified clinician. Following that there is an assessment of parents’ internal working models of close family relationships. Videotapes are included to review any specific needs and reflective dialogues between the children/parents and therapists involved.

Depending on the results from the attachment assessment and family needs, treatments are recommended which include in-office to twice per week in-home appointments with a Circle of Security therapist. It’s a roadmap for building supportive relationships. You can find further information about a program run by Relationships Australia here.

Circle of Security
‘Support my exploration’ or ‘Delight in me’ part of the Circle of Security, referencing above diagram

How Does it Work?

The groups work in 8-12 participants. The facilitator in each group creates discussion, sets goals for a new learning skill, or allows time for self-reflection. All approaches are done positively.

The assessment allows family-specific goals incorporated into a service plan. Following this, the service plan is a step-by-step movement that identifies specific treatment goals within each phase. The program also encourages collaboration with community agencies and other service providers. Integrated services that meet families’ therapeutic needs are created.

It is a 20-week intervention program that takes a small group of participants as mentioned in the beginning. Group sessions are videotaped, and usually, a therapist with each caregiver edits key segments in assessment videotapes to show parents progress being made.

  • Protocols for Parents in the Program
  • Attachment evaluation
  • Create a holding environment for parents to explore parenting
  • User-friendly map of Circle of Security attachment theory
  • Help parents develop observational skills, along with reading and responding to a child’s emotional cues
  • Develop a process to reflect dialogue (AKA a central dynamic)
  • Support parents empathetic shift from defensive to empathy for children

How Has the Circle of Security Helped?

Members have stated positive things about the Circle of Security, stating that the program helped their children immensely with new knowledge and gaining better communication skills. Participants have also expressed how they feel less isolated and judged in finding new solutions to dilemmas and problems.

“Participating in a group program is an effective way to gain the confidence to turn negative habits and cycles into positive ones, manage strong emotions constructively and create the future you want.” – Relationships Australia, NSW, 2020.

Circle of Security
‘Protect me’, ‘Welcome my Coming to you’ part of the Circle of Security, referencing above diagram

What About Parents?

The Circle of Security is fairly related to families who raise children of all ages. With the help of a Circle of Security Network therapist, parents discover new ways to connect, restore, and grow with their children. Upon meetings, The Circle of Security transfers research knowledge to parents. The program designed videos to learn to interpret children’s behaviors.

Who are the Teachers in Circle of Security?

The teachers, or carers, or Circle of Security are always here to help. Before the child begins, carers will always meet with the parents. Here are examples of what a teacher in the Circle of Security does.

  • They are a secure figure for the child
  • Need to be bigger, stronger, wiser, and kind
  • Committed to children to meet their emotional needs
  • This relationship does not replace the relationship between a child and primary caregiver
  • They maintain a child’s placement in a birth, foster, and adoptive home

Parents Need to Stay Involved

Children learn how to self-regulate through repeatable actions of their primary caregiver, usually a parent. The goal of a primary caregiver is to be with the child and provides the foundation for their emotional and social development.

Before you turn away from the program, the Circle of Security is great with individualizing relationships with kids, carers, and their parents. The mediation is individualized for the parent and child through strategies and caregiving interactions and internal working models.

Originators who designed the Circle of Security protocol decided to capitalize on the fact that the caregiver, as an adult, has more ‘degrees of freedom’ in changing patterns of attachment.

However, parents should be aware that children can attach to a select group of committed carers. In a sense, because the child attaches themselves to other carers when the primary caregiver is unavailable, there is someone else the child can turn to when distressed.

Summary of Circle of Security

The Circle of Security is a research based intervention program for caregivers and children to help build relationships, communication skills and strategies to deal with emotions and attachment difficulties. There is a lot of information online regarding Circle of Security, including specific intervention programs, such as the one run by Relationships Australia, some that are run overseas and there are many articles and publications (such as Early Childhood Australia’s ‘The Circle of Security: Roadmap to building supportive relationships‘) which help to decode the Circle of Security and help families and other caregivers to decide if this intervention program may be right for them. They may also use this information to help them to understand more about why their child behaves the way they do – giving an insight into child development, attachment theory and the role that early intervention can play.

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