Circle of Security Parenting introductory session with Matthew Dykas. SUNY Oswego 03/08/2019

OSWEGO — The Circle of Security parenting program kicked off its 2019 session last week with triple the number of candidate trainers from last year’s class, but founder of the Oswego branch of the project and SUNY Oswego Chair of the psychology department Matthew Dykas says there is still room to grow.

“My goal was to take scientific knowledge of attachment caregiving and use that knowledge and translate it into a program up here that could help out parents,” Dykas said. 

The international preventive program, as Dykas described it, uses tenets from attachment theory and aims to alleviate longstanding issues of child abuse in Oswego County.

The most important parts of the well-established academic theory, which refer to the recognition of children’s needs and parental response to those needs, were transformed by academics in the state of Washington, according to Dykas, and passed on to trained candidate educators who pass those values onto parents.

According to the latest child well-being report provided by the New York Office of Children and Family Services in 2017, the Oswego County rate of cases of abused and maltreated children is more than double the state rate, with 1071 cases reported in 2016.

Circle of Security partners with local organizations including Oswego County Opportunities (OCO), United Way of Oswego County and the Richard S. Shineman Foundation to prepare the potential trainers who teach Circle of Security courses to parents.

Building on parental strengths, Dykas said, is a cornerstone of the program. He added that one of the programs main intents is to provide parents with tools to manage a child’s needs, and cited protection and support as part of those needs.

“The program focuses on parents' strengths, and how their children rely on them for emotional support and protection,” Dykas said. “Parents learn how to be a ‘secure base’ and ‘safe haven’ for their children on a daily basis.”

Dykas defined “secure base” as “supporting a child's exploration,” and “safe haven” as “when your child is in distress or needs protection or comfort, you take them in.”

Employing other terminology thoroughly describing children’s “moments,” a term Dykas used to refer to a part of the “caregiving philosophy” the program aims to spread, is important to make sure parents of any age range can understand.

“Children have different moments in their lives and our job is helping parents understand their children's moments,” he elaborated. “So we can talk with a parent who might have difficulties in school, but now they have a child. They might go like, ‘how do I work with my child?’ But we say, well, children have moments, children have ‘protect me’ moments, they might have ‘help me’ moments, or they might have ‘watch over me’ moments.” 

Dykas said posing “moments” to parents helps with explaining how to act in those situations.

“For example, if it's a ‘watch over me’ moment and you can identify that, you don't have to necessarily be doing something with your child at that moment because they're out there exploring and learning something new,” Dykas explained. “But then we have ‘protect me moments.’ When that happens, you should go and try to hold your baby, comfort your baby, and they'll let you know when they want to leave.”

Dykas said that one of the goals of the program is to break cycles of uncertainty when dealing with children. He detailed an example of how dealing with a child in a ‘moment of need’ can be anxiety-inducing for parents who might have experienced a similar situation with their parents.

“What the program does is we make parents say ‘It's okay to feel that way, it’s okay to feel anxiety,’” he said. “A lot of people have these difficulties and that's when we're gonna help you identify those difficulties. And then what happens is, this is the ‘uh huh’ moment for parents. The light bulb goes off and they say ‘oh my god I'm doing this because, because of what happened to me as a child, I'm not going to let that happen anymore.’

The streamlining of the tenets of attachment theory applied in Circle of Security, Dykas said, makes the program relatable.

“That's the beauty of this program is that it's meant for people of all ages,” he said. “When it comes to an economically stressed environment with unstable family situations, this program really helps along those lines because we're really taking the core aspects of attachment theory and addressing them in a way that parents of all different backgrounds can understand.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Circle of Security or joining, 315-343-0257 or contactus@cnyattachmentnetwork.org

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