When I became unwell with postnatal depression, I would often have reoccurring thoughts that something bad would happen to my baby. These scary and intrusive thoughts stopped me from leaving the house, stopped my son exploring his new world, which I came to realise is a need, and, had a negative impact on our early bonding. Looking back, I now realise these thoughts and my behaviour was very limiting for both my son and I.
Part of my journey through counselling sessions with my psychologist, was to talk about the scary and intrusive thoughts I was having, and, how I could overcome them. We also talked about how I could improve the bond between my son and I. My psychologist suggested to me that I would greatly benefit from attending an eight-week program called The Circle of Security. I had never heard of The Circle of Security and was keen to do anything that would help me become well again, and, also, reconnect with my son. I went home after that appointment and did some research on the topic.
I found out that the Circle of Security was based on more than 50 years of research and was founded by friends, Glen Cooper, Kent Hoffman and Bert Powell, who worked together in clinical practice for many years. They essentially, designed a program to enhance the attachment security between parents and children, by looking at the child’s needs. In essence, when a child’s needs are met, they become secure children who tend to be happier, solve problems on their own, have higher self-esteem and have healthy relationships with others, including their parents. Upon reading the benefits of The Circle of Security, I immediately signed up to the program.
I am not going to lie, I was anxious about attending the first day of the program. I was to attend these classes on my own. However, those feelings faded as the warm and lovely faces of the program coordinators greeted me at the door. The person running the program was a clinical psychologist so I knew I was in good hands. I was offered a cup of tea before settling into my seat. The course was run in a group situation and I was glad I was not alone on this journey. After settling in and going through our introductions, the program coordinators explained the methodology of the program.
In basic terms, The Circle of Security program looks at the relationship between a parent and a child in a circle, with the hands of the parents/caregivers being at one end. These hands are open with one hand allowing the child the freedom to explore their world and the other hand providing a safe haven for the child to come back to when they need comfort and protection. Over the course of the 8 weeks, I learnt exactly what the circle meant, in terms of the hands and I learnt a lot about my son’s emotional needs which were not being met due to my illness and about myself. I also learnt the importance of being wiser, kinder, bigger and stronger.
I know that children don’t come with an instruction manual and knowing how to meet our children’s needs is not always easy. I have a profound amount of guilt knowing that I was not meeting my son’s needs when I was unwell, and, I found that the Circle of Security Program provided me with comfort knowing that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and, that good enough is just that, “good enough”.
There were aspects of The Circle of Security program that I struggled with, in particular, as a parent/caregiver we must be bigger, stronger, wiser, kind and whenever necessary take charge. However, there are times, when I am busy, tired and emotional and I may not be wholly present for my son. It is then, that I need to remind myself about being “good enough”. I also found that at times during the program, I became emotional. Thankfully, I was able to debrief with my psychologist at my therapy sessions. I therefore, encourage those who wish to enrol in the program, that they have a self-care plan, which may include talking to a therapist.
In saying that, the benefits I received from attending the program were not obvious at first but later became huge improvements. For example,
- The recurring thoughts of harm coming to my son faded and we began to leave the house more and more. For example, we started off with the short walks around the block and getting a coffee together at the local coffee shop. As time went on, we joined gymbaroo, the local library story time, swimming lessons and going to the park to play on the equipment. My son’s need to explore his new world were being met.
- I also learnt to read his cues to better understand my son and his emotional needs.
- I learnt to sit with my son’s negative emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness etc. To be honest, I am still not comfortable with this and I know this is something I need to work on.
- I learnt the benefits of time in with my son rather than time out.
- Most importantly, I was able to reconnect with my son, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Overall, I would highly recommend the program, particularly for those parents who have gone through challenges, like I have, such as postnatal depression. I do believe that The Circle of Security program, together with debriefing sessions with my psychologist were another factor on journey to recovery.
If you would like more information on the Circle of Security, please see the link below:
I have also attached information about Circle of Security Parenting programs around Australia.
If you or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety and depression please call PANDA’s support helpline on 1300 726 306.
Love and Smiles