Because of You... Families are Empowered

By Anglican Family Care | Posted: Tuesday October 1, 2019

Circle of Security is a parenting programme that focuses on the connection between the child and parent/caregiver and helps to strengthen the relationship. We asked one of our clients to share their experience about the programme with us.

Megan is a solo mum to three daughters aged 14, 12 and 8 all with varying high health needs and had been attending counselling with her middle daughter who had ongoing severe anxiety and depression. Towards the end of their sessions, it was identified that their home environment was highly stressful, which was having an effect on everyone, including Megan, who had developed depression. “I often felt overwhelmed, lost and helpless” Megan explains. “Due to my children’s health needs, I had resolved that my role as a Mum was always going to be hard and I was never going to have the happy positive household I had envisaged”. The counsellor felt that some further support was required and made the referral to AFC.

Megan recalls having little knowledge of AFC and the services the agency offered, “I was actually anxious to have people come into my home for fear of being critiqued. I was blown away by how there was no judgement at all. My Social Worker Steph made me feel understood from the get-go. I had thought because I have children with severe anxiety, there would be no mainstream approach to help me raise them. Steph and I discussed options that may benefit us as a family, and from there I agreed to try The Circle of Security programme”.

Social Worker, Steph, explains that the programme is based on attachment theory, focusing on the relationship and understanding that a child’s behaviour is a message that children use to try and communicate to us what they need. “It’s fundamentally different from a behavioural approach because it focuses on the relationship between the child and parent. The Circle of Security encourages us to look at what is behind the behaviour and ask why the child is acting this way. I see the relationship as the basket, if there are holes in a basket then behavioural strategies are going to fall through those holes. The relationships need to be strong first. Often what we find is when children are securely attached and are having their emotional needs met, there are fewer behavioural issues.”

Megan reflects on the whole experience as being very positive. “Having Steph come to my home every week and allowing me to discuss the trials and tribulations of being a mum, without judgement had a huge impact on me, I no longer feel lost or hopeless.”

As a reflection-based programme, it can be quite challenging. It’s delivered over 8 sessions, through video clips that cover interactions between children and caregivers that are designed to help parents relate to their own parenting experiences, providing them with the opportunity to reflect and learn.

“I would visit Megan each week to help with reflection, talk about the interactions that had occurred and where that sat on the Circle. Being bigger, stronger, wiser and kind, is a tool used to demonstrate how to comfort and protect a child’s independence so that you can enjoy and support them,” said Steph.

“Steph’s approach was always so positive and helped reinforce that you actually don’t have to be a ‘perfect’ Mum. The Circle of Security taught me how to repair your relationship when you drop off the Circle and helped me to recognise that my daughters don’t take me for granted. Every week we had handouts that I have kept, so when the time comes that I need a refresher, I have the material to help get me back on track.”

“It’s rewarding now when people notice a change in my attitude and approach, in fact, even my children have noticed the change in my parenting style and have commented on how much more present and engaged I am. What fascinated me was how using the Circle applies to not just you as a parent, but other relationships with family and friends. With two of my children being older, I assumed it was too late to change the dynamics of our relationships, but the Circle programme showed me you can start making connections at any point. After a few weeks, my default responses to situations had changed. A good example of this would be when my teen comes into my bedroom at the end of the night and sits on my bed. Sometimes she will talk and want to share what has happened in her day, other times she might watch TV with me. Previously, I would tell her to go back to bed or question why she couldn’t tell me this stuff earlier in the day, however, now I see the behaviour as her seeking a connection and I understand the impact of taking that opportunity, as small as it is.”

“I have been quite vocal throughout my support networks about the positive difference that AFC has made. I have never felt judged and I formed a bond so easily with my Social Worker as she was realistic and honest. I constantly tell people about the Circle of Security and how at any stage if the system wasn’t working, I could reassess and look at other options. Aside of the Circle Programme. Steph was able to help advocate for me with several organisations, having the backing of a professional helped me feel less helpless and that I am not battling for entitlements on my own.”

This programme is based on decades of research, and since January this year Steph has worked with nine families.

If you would like to learn more about this programme we recommend reading ‘Raising a Secure Child’, by Kent Hoffman, Glen Cooper and Bert Powell and is available at Dunedin Public Library or visit