Circle of Security Parenting With Carers

Tools for Childcare Providers, Foster Parents, and Classrooms

Designed for Caregivers

Teacher and students doing crafts together at a table


he Circle of Security-Parenting™ Program is used around the world with caregivers and we get a lot of inquiries about applying the model with other important relationships. In fact, the program works equally well for increasing awareness of attachment with childcare providers, foster parents, and classroom teachers. With the support and guidance of a Registered COSP™ Facilitator, the COSP™ program offers carers an understanding of the complexity of the attachment system and how it contributes to infants and toddlers developing a sense of security and competence. Once carers learn about COSP™ through the eight-chapter reflection program, they can use the Circle as a roadmap to understand patterns of attachment. When put into the context of relationships with carers, COSP™ helps build understanding of how important relationships in the lives of children, in addition to parents, contribute to constructing meaning within relationship and between other children.

Learning to apply the Circle to children in their care will help carers shift the focus away from trying to change undesirable behaviors with rewards and punishment to seeing behavior as communication of a need on the Circle and changing the behavior by meeting the need. Soon enough, carers will be able to explore new ways to respond sensitively to children’s cues and even gain insight regarding ways to manage their own struggles around certain attachment needs. In sum, the COSP™ program offers carers new ways to understand the children in their care and new ways to understand how to meet those children’s attachment needs which, in turn, leads to carers with a more confident presence and children who are more cooperative and compliant.

Are Carers Attachment Figures?

Teacher helping a young girl write in her book

Children’s attachment systems are always “on.” This means that any carer who has a sustained, committed relationship with a child can become an attachment figure. To be a secure base/safe haven for a child, the carer must be Bigger, Stronger, Wiser, and Kind. In addition, Mary Dozier also notes that children must feel the carer knows, accepts, and is committed to them.* It isn’t how much time a carer has with a child that determines whether the child becomes attached, it is the carer’s commitment and their capacity to meet the child’s emotional needs that spur attachment.

To be clear, a relationship with a carer does not replace the important relationship with a primary caregiver. A child first learns how to self-regulate through repeated predictable and consistent experiences of co-regulation, which COS calls ‘being with’, with a primary caregiver, usually a parent. The primary caregiver’s capacity to be with the child provides the foundation for the child’s emotional and social development. These early experiences become the template the child uses to make sense of other important relationships. But children can and do attach to a select group of committed carers (e.g., grandparents, step-parents, childcare providers, etc). In a sense, the fact that children can attach to other carers is a protective factor; when the primary caregiver is unavailable, there is someone else the child can turn to when distressed.

Attachment relationships with any carer can either be secure or not. Within a secure relationship, there is a direct and clear path toward resolving the child’s distress. Circle of Security Parenting is designed to help any caregiver understand children’s attachment needs and to learn to meet those attachment needs even when the caregiver is stressed.

* Mary Dozier (2005) Challenges of foster care, Attachment & Human Development, 7:1, 27-30, DOI: 10.1080/14616730500039747

First, What is COSP?

Circle of Security® Parenting™ (COSP), uses an eight-chapter video-based series. Designed for parents, the program works equally well for increasing childcare providers’ awareness of attachment. Provided by a Registered COSP Facilitator, the program offers carers an understanding of the reciprocal relationship between the attachment and exploratory systems; offers a roadmap to understand patterns of attachment; shifts the focus from ways to extinguish undesirable behaviors to seeing behavior as communication of a need; explores ways to respond sensitively to children’s cues; and offers insight to caregivers of ways to manage their own struggles around certain attachment needs.

The following video offers a brief introduction to Circle of Security Parenting and the roadmap.

How is COSP Helpful for Carers?

Put simply, secure attachment has to do with helping children feel safe. Children who have learned that attachment relationships are not safe struggle with other caregiving relationships. Carers who complete the COSP program have the opportunity to learn about children’s attachment needs and also get to practice using the Circle to identify those attachment needs. In addition, when Carers identify where on the Circle they struggle to meet their children’s needs, they can begin to work to more often address their children’s unmet needs on the Circle. Finally, secure children are more cooperative and compliant. As the carer-child relationship gets more secure, each partner gains enjoyment and connection.

Introducing the COSP Classroom Approach

The COSP Classroom Approach is designed to enhance teachers' abilities to form secure relationships, and offer critical organizing principles from attachment theory to improve teacher confidence and competence in relationship building. This, in turn, fosters strong teacher-child relationships, and ultimately, student learning.

COSP with Foster Parents

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COSP Classroom Approach

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