Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers in Ardmore will start a free class for parents next month, something they hope will fill a need in the community.
Children’s Program Director Kimberly Miller said the program, Circle of Security, focuses on helping caregivers of infants and young children.
“This model is one of those things that’s too good to just keep right here,” Miller said. “We believe in it, we’ve seen the benefits of it. It’s too good to not share with the community. This is that missing piece.”
Miller said the class helps parents recognize emotional and nonverbal cues and interpret what children are trying to communicate, which isn’t always the easiest thing.
“A lot of it will be taking parents through so they’re able to recognize the things they’re seeing and have a different mindset when they perceive what the child is trying to communicate” Miller said. “The parents also get a chance to look back on some of their childhood experiences, good, bad and ugly.”
Lighthouse is one of the few agencies in southern Oklahoma that offers services for early childhood mental health. Miller said Circle of Security was a natural fit.
“A lot of that is working with caregivers on how to read those cues and know what your child is needing, because they don’t have the language,” Miller said. “This is one of those things that’s missing in our community.”
 The classes are for parents and revolve around guided discussions, videos and self-reflection. The group then serves as a supportive peer group for the parents.
“They get to reflect together, we’re talking total strangers and asking them to be able to talk about their childhood experiences,” Miller said. “By the end of it, this group becomes very connected.”
Trish Lee, a Family Support Provider with Lighthouse, said the idea of the program isn’t to tell parents they’re parenting incorrectly, but to show them empathy and help them.
“Our hope is that it turns into a support group, because that’s the piece our families are sometimes missing,” Lee said. “There’s still, even today, a stigma with mental health. It’s very important for families who are struggling to have that support. It’s a parent reflecting model. It’s an idea that parents don’t have to be perfect for them to be good enough.”
Lee said the interpersonal skills covered by the program can be transferred to any relationship in a person’s life.
“Sometimes we get tunnel vision,” Lee said. “Kids don’t come with a manual, every child is different. A parent may not have the tools in their toolkit, or might not realize they have the tools. All we’re doing is letting them see the bigger picture.”
Lee said parents, grandparents or other family members could all benefit from the class.  
“We see a lot of grandparents raising grandchildren,” Lee said. “When you’re raising your grandchildren, that relationship changes. Now they’re becoming parents again in a different generation.”
Miller and Lee, who’ve gone through the program both as parents and as professionals, said they’ve incorporated what they’ve learned into their own personal lives.
“It’s a good foundation, it’s all about support and having a secure base,” Lee said.
The Circle of Security program was first created in 2007. The program is now internationally known.
“A lot of what we do is relationship-focused,” Miller said. “So a lot of parents and caregivers who do Circle of Security, they’re going to learn the circle never stops.”
The program will run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday from October 2 to November 20 at HFV Wilson Community Center.