Circle of Security

By Maureen Ives   Child and Adult Counsellor (RN, BSW, AMHSW)

We are not born with a manual on parenting. At times parenting our children can be overwhelming. We look for solutions in many different places, which can be more confusing than reassuring. The Circle of Security program gives parents evidence-based information and strategies on how to give secure parenting.

American Psychologists, Hoffman et al, 2009,  worked with extremely challenging families and designed a program that is easily understood and easy to follow. Parents who have attended this program have reported that their parenting and the relationship with their child has significantly improved. They became more confident and their child’s behaviour became much better. The program offers clinicians and parents a simple map, which supports parents on day-to-day parenting, including the tough times.  According to research the long-term benefits to a child who has a secure relationship with parents include improved relationships with peers, siblings and parents and better educational outcomes.

Parents living in many countries have embraced the Circle of Security program because the concepts are easy to understand and it offers positive outcomes for both parents and their children.  

Below is an example of an easy to remember Circle of Security catchphrase for parents:


Whenever possible:  FOLLOW MY CHILD'S NEEDS

Whenever necessary:  TAKE CHARGE

Many parents find this so simple and easy to remember which helps them to stay focused on providing secure parenting.  They use this tool as a guide to reflect when “not so good” parenting has occurred. 

 Circle of Security helps parents to understand how important it is to be available to their children when they are having fun and when they are not having fun and be able to support them with their positive and negative emotions. Circle of Security calls this “Being With”.

The program helps parents identify their child’s cues and miscues and why this is important. If we miscue our child we may miss something important. If we learn what our child’s cues are, we can respond to them appropriately.

 Circle of Security encourages parents to repair ruptures in their relationships with their child.   Repair can teach our child that people do make mistakes and that they can be repaired. When a mistake is repaired it can increase feelings of security. If parents try to be perfect they can often become distressed and anxious. When we are stressed we are more likely to be reactive. This may have a negative influence on relationships.

Parents learn how to separate behaviour from feelings and how to talk to their child about their feelings and be supportive, especially when the child is experiencing an extreme emotion. At the same time,  negative behaviour is identified and brought to the child’s attention with appropriate consequences. For example, if a child gets angry because he wants an ice cream and is not allowed one he may scream and start to kicking. A helpful response is to acknowledge the child’s disappointment and feelings of anger and support them while they are expressing their emotions.  However, once the child is calm a discussion can occur that kicking someone is never OK.

The Circle of Security program is almost invariably well-received by both mothers and fathers. Many fathers appreciate guidance on how to respond to their children and improve their parenting, which ultimately enhances their child’s well-being.

For more information on the Circle of Security Program, please call 9386 6020.