Circle of Security Parenting

Circle of Security Parenting

Supporting the Development of Emotionally Secure Babies and Children.

A Framework for Understanding Children’s Needs:  Reducing Confusion

Parenting can be a bit like trying to fold a fitted sheet: confusing, challenging, and impossible to do perfectly.  Whilst you can stuff an unruly fitted sheet into the cupboard and forget about it, the same does not apply to parenting.  You must keep showing up and keep trying, despite the confusion.

What do the Experts Say?

The Circle of Security parenting (COSP) is an evidence-based parenting program developed by Cooper, Hoffman, and Powell (2017). It is based upon many decades of research into attachment theory, and it aims to provide a roadmap for parenting. 

The Circle of Security helps parents identify the needs of their child at any given moment.  It also outlines how the parent can ideally attempt to respond to their child’s needs. 

The COSP encourages parents to be “Bigger, Stronger, Wiser and Kind” and act as both a secure base and a safe haven, supporting their children’s exploration and autonomy, and comforting them in times of distress. The COS graphic represents these aspects of parent-child relationship.

Circle of Security

Understanding Emotional Needs

COSP highlights the importance of the parent attempting to understand and responding to a child’s emotional cues. It is not about always getting it right.  The program supports parents to recognise when their child needs encouragement to explore the world (called needs on the top of the circle) and when they need comfort and emotional support (needs on the bottom of the circle).  To be human is to have attachment needs.  This applies to adults and children alike. 

By paying attention to cues and communications from their children, parents can help their child to feel safe to explore and learn in the world as well as ask for emotional support when required. These are the two sides of our attachment needs – healthy dependency and a need for exploration. 

Over time, ideally the child has multiple experiences of being encouraged to explore and supported with difficult feelings. They learn that others can be relied upon for support.  Need, ask, hold.  They also are not afraid to explore the world because they know that there is someone supporting them and enjoying alongside them.  This is the template for a strong parent-child relationship that supports the development of security and trust. 

Enhancing Parental Sensitivity

An important benefit of COSP is that it can support improvements in parental sensitivity. Parents are encouraged to reflect on their responses to their child’s signals and to consider their own emotional states. Accurate self-reflection is the cornerstone of strong relationships.

 The parent’s ability to reflect upon the child’s communication whilst at the same time simultaneously tracking (and if necessary, modifying) their own responses, is associated with parental empathy and patience.  This can also support parents to respond more thoughtfully. Increased sensitivity to a child’s needs can reduce misunderstandings and conflicts in relationship, which is good for everyone in the family.

Supporting Secure Attachment

Research shows that children who feel secure in their significant relationships tend to display more prosocial social behaviours, feel more confident, and are better equipped to handle stress and challenges. These developmental advantages extend far beyond early infancy and early childhood. 

For More Information on the Circle of Security Parenting

The website has number of great resources for parents, including wonderful animations explaining the Circle of Security.

Perinatal Psychology

If you would like to see one of our perinatal psychologists who is trained in the Circle of Security Parenting program, contact the Centre for Clinical Psychology today.

We understand that parenting is challenging and that you are trying your best.  We can support you to build stronger relationships with yourself, your child and other important family members.

Call and speak to our administration team on 03 9077 0122 or email or book online

Medicare rebates available.