- Geoff Fitzgerald

Circle of Security
Copyright Disclaimer
The focus of this workshop will be for participants to
learn Circle of Security Parenting for their own
personal family relationships and is not training
participants to professionally use the materials or DVD.
If only it were this easy...
Imagine this...
Underpinning Principles of COS.
* COS is a relationship based parenting program targeted
at supporting secure attachment between parents and
* It adopts the standpoint that we are all hardwired to
want to feel secure (The Great Pull), and attempt to do
so in relationship with another (“And”)
* The focus is on developing the parent/child relationship
rather than developing specific behaviour management
strategies. It is based on the premise that by being able to
respond to or cue our children effectively many
behavioural issues are more readily managed (providing a
Road Map)
* COS offers a coherent world view and vocabulary for
understanding what’s going on: in the child and in the self
The Great Pull and “&”...
The Circle of Security approach is always about helping caregivers
more fully recognize and honour this “Great Pull”, the “And” within
themselves and their children.
It does this by providing a simple road map of how this need for AND
is hardwired into each of us and is always hidden in plain sight. It
helps us to move from only seeing what we expect to see, to knowing
what to look for and seeing what was hidden in plain sight.
COS provides a “When/Then” decision making framework. A shift
from “What does this child want from me???!!!” to “Oh, I see what
he/she needs (and it’s very easy to understand).”
Background - Psychobiological regulation
There is now widespread agreement that the brain is a
self organizing system, but there is perhaps less of an
appreciation of the fact that the self organization of the
developing brain occurs in the context of a relationship
with another self, another brain. The other self, the
primary caregiver, acts as an external psychobiological
regulator of the “experience-dependent” growth of the
infant’s nervous system, whose components are rapidly
organizing, disorganizing, and reorganizing in the brain
growth spurt of the first two years of life.
Schore, A.N. (1996) The experience dependent maturation of a regulatory system in the orbital prefrontal
cortex and the origin of developmental psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology Volume 8,
Background - Affect synchrony and Affect
“Self regulation develops in the context of mutual
regulatory parent-infant systems and the co-ordination of
affective expression during face to face interactions.
[These] facilitate the transition from mutual regulation to
self regulation”
– Alan Schore, Ph.D.
Background- Emotional dysregulation
When infants are emotionally dysregulated they are at the
mercy of these states.
* Until these states are brought under control, infants
must devote all of their regulatory resources to
reorganize them;
* While they are doing that, they can do nothing else;
* These infants forfeit potential opportunities for socioemotional learning.
Tronick, E. & Weinberg, K. Depressed mothers and infants: failure to form dyadic states of
consciousness. In: Murray, L.,Cooper, PJ, Eds. Post partum depression in child development. New York:
Guilford Press, 1997: 54-81.
Attachment Theory
The three systems we need to know to understand
care seeking
care giving
Attachment Theory
The child’s relationship with the parent, rather than the
parents’ with the child. Meaning that the child turns to the
parent for support and not the other way around. Parents
have an affectional bond to their child but are not attached to
The attachment relationship is:
Persistent or ongoing, not temporary
Directed toward a specific person
Emotionally significant
Directed toward maintaining contact with the other
Characterised by distress during periods of involuntary
Characterised by seeking security and comfort (unique to
attachment as opposed to the other 5 which are shared by
affectionate attachment)
Attachment Theory
Organised attachment:
child manifests a predictable series of responses to
attachment figures when in distress:
independence at the expense of relationship.
relationship at the expense of independence.
neither able to successfully rely on themselves or
their parents in any consistent way. Tend to try to
rigidly control events in their lives to create a
sense of safety by avoiding stressful events since
they lack self reliance and relationship skills that
might help manage stressful situations.
Key Components of COS – TOP
Support My Exploration (Uniqueness/Autonomy/Top)
Watch over
Delight in me – my being
Help me
Enjoy with me – my mastery
Key Components of COS – BOTTOM
Welcome My Coming to You And Fill My Cup
Protect me
Comfort me
Organise my feelings
Delight in me
Key Components of COS – HANDS
ALWAYS: be bigger, stronger, kinder and wise
WHENEVER POSSIBLE: follow my child’s need
Bigger, stronger, without kind can be experienced as “mean”
Kind without bigger, stronger can be experienced as “weak”
The absence of these is experienced as “gone”
Key Components of COS – BEING WITH
* Is a state of mind where we allow ourselves to be
vulnerable enough to follow and hold our child’s feelings along
with whatever feelings also get stirred up in us, and help them
to organize what they are feeling. It is having us with them in
their emotions.
* Many of us often find it easier to be with our children when
they are feeling happy. When they are struggling emotionally
we often find it more difficult and want to get them back to
feeling happy by distracting or talking them out of their
distress. This often intensifies and prolongs our child’s distress.
* How we react to our children’s emotions (cue vs miscue)
teaches them whether feelings can be shared or need to be
hidden, and whether they can face their feelings or need to
escape from them.
BEING WITH – Points to Ponder
What emotions were your caregivers able to fully
help you with?
2. What emotions were they partially able to help
you with?
3. What emotions were they not able to help you
4. What might the implications be for us as adults
1. When parenting our own children?
2. In intimate relationships?
3. As clinicians?
Key Components of COS – SHARK MUSIC
Tells us to be afraid of a feeling or need that’s actually safe
Changes our response to a situation
Creates “limited circles” often featuring miscues
Limited Circles – Points to Ponder
How might caregiver shark music on top lead to a child fearing
How might caregiver shark music on bottom lead to child fearing
What strategies might children adopt in response to limited circles”
How might these manifest as adolescents?
As adults within intimate relationships?
Implications as clinicians?

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