What is PACE?

It’s the foundation for therapeutic intervention. It’s a way of communicating with children to make them feel safe.


Adopted children have often experienced trauma and loss. Their experiences can lead to a child feeling unsafe.


The PACE approach is an attitude and not just a behavioural strategy. Ultimately, it provides a safe space for a child to learn to trust again.


PACE stands for playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy.


Playfulness is about creating a light atmosphere using tone of voice. Similar to when a parent is reading a story, this tone of voice should be continued throughout the day. This provides the child with a sense of joy and fun instead of feeling like they are being lectured.


Other aspects include mutual enjoyment through connecting through bonding sessions. This could include cuddles or enjoying a mutual activity together.


Acceptance is at the core of the child’s sense of safety. Accepting a child’s thoughts, feeling and wishes without assessing them. This is a chance for a child to learn and grow through their relationship.


Curiosity, without judgement, helps children become aware of their inner life. It makes them aware of their actions and the reasons behind their behaviours. Curiosity lets the child know that the adult understands how they are feeling/acting.


Actively promoting curiosity will encourage children to reflect on their actions. Curiosity also encourages respectful communication of children’s feelings and thoughts.


Empathy shows that an adult has compassion for a child. Being empathetic means the adult is actively showing the child that their inner life is important. It also shows that the adult will be there for them for support.


Empathy can help regulate difficult emotions and reduced shame. This can be a good way to set boundaries and can help to emphasise this, for example ‘I know its hard for you when I say no’.


There are a great deal of articles, videos and podcasts available online about the PACE approach if you want to know more.