How to Transform Your Parent-Child Relationships with PACE

Jess Gonzales, Children

As parents and caregivers, it can be challenging to navigate the complex emotional landscapes of our children. The ups and downs, tantrums, and mood swings can leave us feeling overwhelmed and unsure how to best support them.

Luckily, there is a powerful tool we can incorporate into our parenting toolkit: the PACE model.

Hi, I’m Jess Smoker, a therapist at Bloom Child Therapists, and in this article, we’ll take a closer look at each element of PACE and how to apply it in our everyday interactions, and transform the relationship with your children.

PACE stands for Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, and Empathy. It is an approach to parenting developed by Dan Hughes, a renowned clinical psychologist specializing in attachment theory.

By incorporating the principles of PACE, we can deepen our connection and foster emotional growth within our children.

1. Playfulness

Incorporating playfulness into your interactions with your child can create a safe and joyful environment where their emotions can flow freely.

For example, spending time outside playing on a swing set or trampoline is a great way to engage play. Another idea is to have impromptu dance parties in the living room, where you can dance to your favorite songs and let loose.

Remember, the key is to create a playful atmosphere where your child can be joyful and set aside some of the negative emotions. By incorporating playfulness into your interactions, you can strengthen your bond with your child and create lasting memories together.

2. Acceptance


Acceptance, in this context, means fully embracing our children for who they are, and acknowledging and appreciating their unique qualities. Regardless of what they may be feeling or going through, we create a safe environment where they can express themselves freely.

For instance, when your child is feeling sad, you can empathize with their emotions and let them know that it’s okay to feel that way. By validating their feelings, you provide them with the reassurance and support they need.

Showing your child that you accept what they are feeling without shutting them down or forcing them to engage builds the trust they need to express themselves well.

By accepting and encouraging their emotional experiences, you help them develop a healthy emotional intelligence and build a strong bond of trust and understanding.


3. Curiosity


Curiosity serves as the gateway to understanding our child’s inner world. We can foster open conversations by asking thought-provoking questions that encourage them to share their thoughts, dreams, and fears. Curiosity is a way to discover the narrative of experience.

For example, we can ask questions like “What do you think about that?” or “Tell me more about what you’re feeling.” or “How did that situation make you feel?” You can also encourage your child to tell stories and be creative.

This curiosity demonstrates to our children that their thoughts and emotions are important to us, ultimately building trust and fostering a deep connection. Curiosity also shows our children that we are paying attention to them and want to know them, which leads to a strong relationship.


4. Empathy


Empathy is the cornerstone of the PACE model. It requires us to step into our child’s shoes and truly understand their experience.

When they express their emotions, try to empathize with them by acknowledging their feelings and mirroring them back. Use phrases like “It sounds like you’re feeling…” or “I can understand why that would make you…”

By offering empathy, we build a nurturing bond and teach them the value of compassion.


Incorporating the PACE model into our parenting journey allows us to create a nurturing, supportive environment where children can thrive emotionally and we can build strong relationships with them. Start small by incorporating one element at a time, and gradually integrate all four components into your interactions.

And if you find that you need additional support, schedule an appointment today. Together, we can empower your child to manage their emotions, foster self-confidence, and embrace their authentic selves.