Article and photo by Sarah Thompson, Director of Communications & Volunteer Mobilization
When Daisy Feliciano learned that Urban Alliance (UA) was offering grant support for early childhood leaders to attend a Circle of Security training, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I had heard so much about [Circle of Security] and the significant impact the training had made on parents and educators of all ages all around the world,” she explained. “I had to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Feliciano, who has been working in prevention programs directly impacting children and families for more than twenty years, also serves as Vice President of Mustard Seed Outreach Center (MSOC), a non-profit organization that provides a range of services to more than 100 people per month including basic needs provision for families who are under-resourced or homeless, car seat clinics, summer camps for children, and family support groups.
Through UA’s Thrive initiative, MSOC has connected to other early childhood program leaders and has received support to help strengthen their programs for deeper impact in the community.
Backed by UA grant funding, Feliciano and co-facilitator Hector Oquendo were able to attend a 4-day Circle of Security training, an internationally acclaimed curriculum with examples of secure and problematic parent/child interactions, healthy options in caregiving, and animated graphics designed to communicate the principles of Circle of Security.
“The training blessed me and opened my eyes to approach families from a deep, but simplistic, perspective regarding parenting,” shared Feliciano.
Oquendo added, “It offered new insights on working with children and parents.”
Grant funding also helped offset the cost for MSOC to take the knowledge they gained by attending the Circle of Security facilitators’ training and offer a parenting group to families they serve.
“UA’s support broadened the Mustard Seed Outreach Center’s ability to collaborate with community partners, such as Hartford Healthcare at Home’s Nurturing Families Network and Mt. Olive Child Development Center, to promote the Circle of Security parenting workshop series to the Greater Hartford region. This collaboration helped MSOC reach and serve young families in meaningful ways and provided opportunity for referrals.”
Carolyn Biggs, Hartford resident and mother of two, was one of several parents who participated in the Circle of Security parenting workshop series offered by MSOC.
“It was a great program. There were a lot of people that were single parents that took the class, so we could all relate,” explained Biggs. “It taught me to find the balance and how to channel your energy if you are stressed out all day long and then come home to your kids. When you are feeling a little upset or agitated about something, instead of lashing out you can take a walk or go to another room. Or, if my child is having a temper tantrum after a long, stressful day, I learned to let her have the tantrum, walk away, come back and revisit the situation and approach it differently. It works a lot better.”
Biggs shared that her relationship with her three-year-old daughter Kiara has improved just in the few weeks that have passed since participating in the workshop.
“Our relationship has changed,” she shared. “After having the class I try to pay attention to more of her needs and listen more. I’m not used to explaining myself to a child. But now I know that you can’t just yell at your kids and say ‘because I said so’. You have to listen to what your kids are trying to say to you.”
For Feliciano, witnessing parents gain new knowledge through the group was a highlight.
“I was encouraged by the immediate ‘a-ha’ moments that were evident on the parent’s faces from the very first session, and the feedback of what they had started doing differently at home to make a deeper connection with their children,” she explained.
Oquendo agreed. “It was encouraging to see how parents were able to engage with some personal stories,” he said. “The only male parent present was able to share the reality of how a male figure is key [in the lives] of their children. He allowed us to realize that no matter how a child is raised, love and time spent with a child will impact their upbringing. Now this father is able to have a clearer concept of the power of [attachment theory].”
For Biggs, listening more and reacting less to her daughter has been key.
“For the longest time I could never understand why every time I would pick her up [from daycare] she would have meltdowns and would kick and scream. It was becoming too much. I noticed that after having the class, I don’t yell at her. When I drop her off in the morning I give her a hug and tell her I love her, and I noticed her attitude changed. She doesn’t cry when I leave her now. She’s not as angry when I pick her up to go home. She’s a lot calmer now. I noticed a big difference. I listen to her more so when she tells me I hurt her feelings I ask her how and she’ll tell me and then I will tell her what hurt my feelings and we talk through it and apologize and hug and everything has been great with her since. You aren’t thinking about it but the way you talk makes a big difference,” she shared.
“Some of the feedback shared by the parents was the changes they made in their parenting behaviors from just simply ‘being with’ their children to engaging more attentively by putting away cellphones when visiting the neighborhood park as a family or at the dinner table, to self-reflecting on negative events in their own past that could potentially hinder them from being effective in their relationship with their children,” explained Feliciano.
She added, “I was encouraged to see the parents be respectful and supportive of one another and understand that there is no perfect way to parent, but it is important to be ‘good enough’. Do your best and let God handle the rest!”
“Parents’ insights and experiences were vivid, real and genuine,” shared Oquendo. “The passion of some parents connecting with the facilitators allowed us to understand each other better. The opportunity that I had to support these parents was made possible by UA in a way that created a bond between [our] ministry and the community. UA became an internal healer to parents that needed an encouragement and [guidance] on how to effectively [bond with] their children.”
Biggs realizes that sometimes putting her newly gained skills to practice is harder in the moment but in the long run it will make a big difference. With support from MSOC and new tools to pull from, she is confident to continue her journey of parenting her children and looks forward to the years ahead.
For more information about Thrive, contact Rosaicela Rodriguez, Urban Alliance’s Director of Implementation, Children & Youth Initiatives.