Article – The PACE Approach

The PACE (Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, Empathy) approach is a therapeutic framework developed by Dan Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a leading expert in the field of interpersonal neurobiology.

PACE is designed to help individuals develop a more positive and healthy relationship with themselves and others.

PACE incorporates four key elements:

  1. Playfulness – This means bringing a sense of fun and joy to our interactions. It’s like being playful and light-hearted, making others feel comfortable and at ease. It can involve smiling, using humour, or engaging in activities that bring joy and laughter.
  2. Acceptance – Acceptance means embracing others just the way they are, without judgment or criticism. It’s about showing respect and kindness, even when we may not agree with someone or understand their perspective. Acceptance helps create a safe and supportive environment for open communication.
  3. Curiosity – Curiosity involves being genuinely interested in others and their experiences. It’s like having a desire to learn more about them and understand their thoughts, feelings, and needs. By being curious, we can show empathy and develop deeper connections with others.
  4. Empathy – Empathy is about putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes and understanding how they might be feeling. It’s like being able to share their joy, sadness, or frustration. By showing empathy, we can offer support, comfort, and validation to others.

How could PACE be used in the home, as a parent or carer?

  1. Playfulness:
  • Engage in playful activities as a family, such as board games, hide-and-seek, or singing and dancing together.
  • Use humour to lighten the mood during challenging situations, finding ways to make each other smile or laugh.
  • Create a playful atmosphere during daily routines, like making mealtime more enjoyable by telling jokes or having silly conversations.
  1. Acceptance:
  • Practice active listening and validate each family member’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. You don’t have to fix the problem – just listen and validate the emotions connected to it
  • Embrace differences and celebrate individuality within the family, encouraging everyone to express themselves authentically.
  • Offer support and understanding when someone is going through a difficult time, showing acceptance and unconditional love.
  1. Curiosity:
  • Engage in meaningful conversations, asking open-ended questions to learn more about each other’s interests, dreams, and experiences.
  • Show genuine interest in each family member’s activities and accomplishments, asking about their day or what they learned at school or work.
  • Explore new hobbies or activities together as a family, encouraging curiosity and a sense of exploration.
  1. Empathy:
  • Listen actively and attentively to each other’s concerns or worries, offering comfort and understanding.
  • Practice perspective-taking by imagining how a family member might be feeling in a given situation.
  • Show empathy through gestures of support and compassion, such as giving hugs, offering kind words, or lending a helping hand when needed.

Remember, using PACE in the home is about creating an atmosphere of connection, understanding, and kindness. By incorporating playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, and empathy into your interactions with all family members (yes all), you can strengthen your relationships and foster a loving and supportive home environment.


  • The PACE Approach: Building Relationships with Children Who Have Experienced Trauma by Dan Hughes

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