A circle that's changing lives, one family at a time

Program strengthens families from within

Testimonials from the latest cohort of young women graduating from Mallee District Aboriginal Services’ relationship-based parenting program have highlighted the effectiveness of intensive work on strengthening families from within.
The Circle of Security Program was implemented by MDAS five years ago, and the most recent graduates are proud of the progress the program has allowed them to make in their parenting and family relationships.
Team Leader with the MDAS Early Years team, Kelly Taliloa, said Circle of Security worked in small groups with young women, new parents and carers to better understand the needs and behaviors of their children.
“We keep Circle of Security (COS) to only five or six participants at any one time, which means we build very strong relationships within the group over the eight weeks we’re together,” Ms Taliloa said.
“Our work is focused on enhancing attachment security between parents and children – that doesn’t mean simply focusing on the child and their behaviors,” she said.
“It means we give the women space to explore their own emotional needs and how that impacts on their family relationships as well.  Just going through that process promotes a deeper understanding of what drives a child’s behavior and just as importantly, their own parental responses.
“The outcomes are safer, stronger bonds between parents and child and brighter futures for the next generation. We now have the longevity of experience is showing that coming through in our families.”
COS groups meet weekly and participants have a meal together as they study and talk.  The interactions build a network of peer support and opportunities to make positive social connections with other parents. The concept allows parents the time to reflect with their peers in a supportive and safe environment on their parenting styles and identify growth areas.
At the end of the course parents have a celebration lunch as they are presented with their certificates and photos to commemorate the event.
The group facilitator Marg Sharman said the reflections of the latest group of program participants underscored the significance of making the families feel important and valued.
“Our feedback indicates 90% of parents completing the program feel more confident about controlling their own emotions so that they can help their children organise their feelings,” she said.
“We have incredible feedback not just from the young women in our program, but from their families.  The husband of one of our mums was so impressed with the changes she had implemented in their family, that when she got her certificate, he wanted to hang it next to their wedding certificate,” Ms Sharman said.
“As someone working with young families, I can’t explain how good it feels to hear that feedback, and see the program outcomes in action.”

Participant feedback:
“COS helped me to understand my child’s needs more. It makes a big difference when you understand about how they go out to explore and come back in for a hug to fill up their emotional cup again. Knowing that really helped me.”
“COS made me understand more why the kids keep coming back in all the time and ask for so many things, it’s because they need love to feel safe and when they feel safe, they play and behave better.”
“COS showed me that children feel secure when we follow their cues and pay attention to them when they show a need. I found out about recognising my ‘shark music’ and not letting my fears stop me from meeting my child’s needs.”
“I have grown within myself and have come to a place where I can be a better safe haven for my child. I have learnt to hold out my hands to my child even when I don’t feel like it, I step back and look at myself and then self-regulate.”
“I’ve found a new way of being with my kids and I’m not so stressed. I’m more aware of my ‘not good’ reactions to my kids and I do it better.”

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MALLEE DISTRICT ABORIGINAL SERVICES  “Our Vision: "Self-determined, healthy, robust and culturally strong Aboriginal communities across the Mallee region."

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