Young Ballymun

Circle of Security Parenting

Circle of Security® Parenting™ is a parent-reflection program offering the core components of the evidence-based and internationally acclaimed COS protocol.  There is an 8 – 10 week program for parents and caregivers and a four-day training for professionals.

For parents/ caregivers

At times all parents and caregivers feel lost or without a clue about what their child might need. Imagine what it might feel like if you were able to make sense of what your child was really asking from you. The Circle of Security® Parenting™ program is based on decades of research about how secure parent-child relationships can be supported and strengthened. Secure children are happier, less angry, kinder, and able to get on better with family and friends. They trust the people they love and are able to solve problems.
The group meets weekly for approx. 2 hours over 9 – 10 weeks in a community venue.   Recognising parents as the experts on their own children, we use video examples to support parents and caregivers to

  • Understand their child’s emotional world by learning to read emotional needs
  • Support their child’s ability to successfully manage emotions
  • Enhance the development of their child’s self esteem
  • Honor the innate wisdom and desire for their child to be secure

Youngballymun have been offering Circle of Security® Parenting™ to parents and caregivers since 2016.  We have co-facilitated with a wide range of partners in the community including, Our Nursery, Tir Na nOg, Primary Care Psychology, Ballymun Regional Youth Resource (BRYR), Primary Care Speech and Language Therapy, Ballymun Youth Action Project, HSE Early Intervention Team and Geraldstown House Family Resource Centre.  Caregivers who have participated have reported a significant difference in their stress levels and feelings of helplessness before and after completing the 9 week course.  They have also reported having more positive relationship with their children as well as more confidence to meet their children’s needs.  Youngballymun are currently gathering data on the outcomes for participants and this will be the focus of a news update later in the year.  Some themes emerging for participants who have completed the programme include:
Recognition of the importance of having boundaries and taking charge in a kind way with participants feeling empowered by this.
“I probably wasn’t taking charge enough [before COS].  I felt that maybe they weren’t listening to me, I was too soft.  So I take charge more, but in a kind way and realise how important it is to be there for them and to give them boundaries … I feel like I haven’t lost control as much … I feel like I have the power to take control of the situation, but not to be mean by doing it”
Understanding the adult’s role in supporting emotional regulation.  There is often a big shift for participants in moving from viewing tantrums as a way of getting attention to viewing tantrums as a need to have an adult help to organise their feelings.  Also, understanding the regulation of child’s emotions as important components in the development of a healthy attachment relationship
“With tantrums … now I am thinking it’s ‘Organise my feelings’, they are not doing it on purpose, it’s not their first choice … She is really trying to get us to organise her feelings and talk about the feelings and to help her know that she is loved and we are there for her and we will listen to her and will help her”

“As an adult you ask a child ‘What’s wrong?’ and they don’t know, they actually don’t know the words and we are expecting them to be practical about it as we ask what’ s wrong so we can fix it”
Participants feeling there are more opportunities for change and growth in challenging relationships
“With tantrums … I now realise there is a lot more going on for the child … before I used to let her have her tantrum, but now I’m being with her … she comes around a lot quicker”
Participants reporting that they are reflecting more:

“When you come to this you think it’s for your child and that you’ll help your child, but it’s actually re-evaluating and re-training yourself first, and then meeting the needs of the child … You have to organise your own feelings first and evaluate where you are on the circle … [COS] makes you see things that are hidden in plain sight  and taking a minute to make that choice whereas before you would go with whatever came into your head and afterwards think … but this makes you think before”
Participants reporting that they feel less anxiety:
 “As a single parent, I kept thinking ‘can I do this on my own and how am I going to deal with him as he gets older?’ … But now, with the tools I’ve been given … I realise I am strong enough to do this … The tools are helping me to be less anxious about things … before I came here my GP had to up my anxiety medication but now I feel like it can be brought back down again because I’m less anxious about things … and I can look with a clear mind … it’s 100% down to Circle of Security as it’s been life changing for me”
“When I feel anxious, I now have a name for it:  Shark Music.  This has helped my anxiety to get so much better.  If I say ‘it’s anxiety’ it feels like it’s coming back and it’s not, it’s just a situation … having another name for it [helps me to realise] that it comes and goes … it’s a moment and everybody has it”
Groups for parents and caregivers are on offer all throughout the year so please contact Hazel for more info: or 087 204 2715

Practitioner Training

Youngballymun has also hosted Circle of Security® Parenting™ Facilitator Training.  Taking place over four-days, this trains professionals to use the eight-chapter DVD.  The program presents video examples of secure and problematic parent/child interaction, healthy options in care giving, and animated graphics designed to clarify principles central to COS. Circle of Security Parenting implements decades of attachment research in an accessible step-by-step process for use in group settings, home visiting, or individual counselling.

Learning Objectives of the Training:
  • Understand the theoretical foundation of the Circle of Security
  • Shift caregiver focus from behaviour management to enhancing the quality of relationship
  • Understand specific steps to build self-reflection in caregivers
  • Use video examples to support increased empathy in caregivers
  • Identify new options to help caregivers manage emotions
  • Learn step-by-step approaches for promoting secure attachment in children
Who Should Attend?

Social Workers, Psychologists, Home Visitors, Family Support Workers, Early Years Professionals, Public Health Nurses, Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and anyone providing parenting education and/or counselling to parents of young children.

Since 2016, Youngballymun have provided bursaries to 26 practitioners to attend Circle of Security® Parenting™ Facilitator Training.  These practitioners have come from a wide range of services within the community:

Practitioners who have attended the four-day facilitator training have reported the following:

“Attachment based theory is the foundation of  the work we do with families in our service and staff have engaged in attachment based training in the past. However, I feel Circle of Security provides parents with a clear, simple, jargon free roadmap. The content is presented in such a way that parents are given a language to decode what their children need and in the course of the group that I am co-facilitating I can see parents really connect with the material and apply it to their own situations. Therefore, it offers our service another tool to engage parents in reflecting on their relationships with their children.” – TUSLA Project worker

“This programme has been invaluable in so many ways. Even with individual clients, I feel that I have a much greater awareness of where parents and children are “on the circle” and have a much richer vocabulary to describe what I might have had a feeling about before”– Speech and Language therapist, HSE

Youngballymun will be hosting two trainings in Ireland in 2020, with one of the programme originators delivering the four-day facilitator training.  These trainings will take place in Dublin and the Midlands.  If you would like to be added to a mailing list to hear about the training, contact

You can also find out more information on the Circle of Security website: