What is PACE Parenting?

What is P.A.C.E parenting? Fostering Connection, Attunement and Relational Safety through Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, and Empathy.

The P.A.C.E parenting model is a trauma-informed approach that was developed by clinical psychologist Dr Dan Hughes. It is an evidence-based way of thinking, feeling, and communicating that helps carers to build safety, security, and trust in the adult-child relationship. 

P.A.C.E parenting is rooted in attachment theory and recognises the critical role of secure attachments in healthy child development. 

When a child experiences significant trauma and attachment disruptions, they can learn that other people are untrustworthy, unsafe, scary, and even harmful. This negatively impacts the way a child relates to and interacts with others throughout their lives.  To develop positive and secure attachments, young people need skilled and knowledgeable carers who can look beneath their behaviour and respond sensitively to their underlying needs. 

Evidence shows that by consistently and effectively applying the four principles of P.A.C.E parenting, carers are better able to provide a child with the emotional containment and relational safety they need to develop secure attachments and begin to heal from their early traumatic experiences. 

P.A.C.E parenting aims to help the child to develop a more positive and integrated sense of self through four key principles: 

1. Playfulness

Playfulness involves incorporating fun, humour, and joy into our interactions with young people. By being playful, parents or carers can create a sense of safety and enjoyment that allows children to explore, learn, and develop their social and emotional skills. Being playful could mean engaging in a fun shared activity or interacting with a young person in ways which encourage laughter and spontaneity to build a meaningful connection. When used skilfully by a carer who is well attuned to a young person, playfulness can also help to diffuse difficult situations. 

2. Acceptance

Acceptance means embracing and valuing children and young people for who they are, and without judgement. Implementing the principle of “acceptance” in P.A.C.E therapeutic parenting involves the use of key communication skills which seek to validate the child’s emotions and foster a non-judgmental and supportive parent/carer-child relationship.

3. Curiosity

Adopting a curious stance can be a very effective tool when supporting young people to explore and make sense of their early experiences and inner world. It requires carers who can confidently and effectively implement techniques which encourage open communication, active listening, and a willingness to learn from the child’s perspective. 

4. Empathy 

Children who have experienced trauma have very often experienced people who have related to them in ways that are hurtful, uncaring, or inconsistent. This can have implications for how the child learns to understand and tolerate the feelings and inner experiences of others. It can also lead a child to experience high levels of shame, and difficulty accepting empathy from others. 

By connecting to the feelings, beliefs and experiences behind a child’s behaviour, carers are better able to respond in ways which creates a safe space for the child to express their inner thoughts and feelings. Phrases such as, “I can see how that must have been really difficult for you”, can help us to convey empathy and reassure the child that their feelings are important and valid. 

At Meadows Psychology Service, we acknowledge the vast evidence base which supports the application of P.A.C.E therapeutic parenting within residential children’s homes, supported accommodation, education and foster care settings.

Our expert team provides guidance, support, and training to ensure staff have the necessary skills and strategies to support the formation of secure attachments with young people who have experienced developmental trauma

For more information on how Meadows Psychology Service can support your team in implementing trauma-informed, evidence-based care, please get in touch via phone, email, or via our online contact form.

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