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Communicate With PACE Parenting

09th, Feb 2022

Continuing on from our previous blog, Dr Kerry Sweeney, Clinical Child Psychologist tells us about PACE, the fundamental cornerstone of therapeutic parenting. Find out more below!

How should we communicate with our children and teenagers - PACE?

Dan Hughes, a Clinical Psychologist from America developed a therapeutic parenting model of practise initially for children who had experienced trauma. However, it is a wonderful way to communicate with ALL children. This model highlights the need for a PACE parenting attitude. PACE stands for being playful, accepting, curious and empathic. It is the fundamental cornerstone of therapeutic parenting.


Play is so fundamental to a child’s development and to their sense of self-worth. There are so many ways to be playful with a child. Even simply engaging with a child to express how much they mean to you is so important; a smile means so much. Playfulness is simply a way to show you enjoy your child and the relationship with them.


Showing acceptance of all that a child brings to the table creates psychological safety. This doesn’t mean you accept the difficult behaviours, but you understand the reasons behind their difficulties. Remembering that behaviours are a way of communicating hidden needs and anxiety can help with the development an accepting attitude. Ideas for accepting expressions are, ‘I am so glad you have shown me that you are really scared/sad but it’s not okay for you to scream and shout at me. Let’s see if we can figure out another way for you to show me what you need.”


Curiosity can help to think about why a child is exhibiting difficulties instead of getting really frustrated. ‘Wondering out loud’ about what has happened is so powerful for a child.

Curiosity is so much better than asking direct questions, which children will really struggle to answer as they often just don’t know the answer! A Curious question might be ‘I was wondering if you are letting me know by being angry that you are worrying about going back to school?’


This is the most important of all! Really getting and feeling what a child is worried about and genuinely communicating this to them verbally and non-verbally is so powerful. Once we have empathy for a child, we can really think about how we can support them.

How do you show empathy?

  • Sharing how a child feels
  • Help identify and regulate feelings
  • Try not to fix, solve or offer advice
  • Try to feel comfortable with child’s emotions
  • Say something that guesses how your child might be feeling
  • Try to avoid direct questions
  • Don’t try to make it better, find a solution or give advice…yet!

Taking care of you is vital!

It is so important parents take care of themselves emotionally as this the foundation for responsive parenting. Undoubtedly the pandemic has reduced our ability to cope at times. We need to think carefully about how do you take care of yourself?


Well-Being Commandments

  • I will try to keep calm by emptying my bucket a little!
  • I will try not to compare myself or my child to other people.
  • I will try to take time to think before acting.
  • I will try not to bottle everything up.
  • I will try not to try to solve everything.
  • I will ask myself how I feel.
  • I will try to relax more and get more sleep.
  • I will try to be organised and not leave things to the last minute.
  • I will try to be okay with delegating.
  • It is okay to ask for help.
  • I will choose just one task from ‘the list’ and start it and achieve it.
  • I will try to say “no” to myself sometimes and find some time for me.
  • I won’t always have the answer and that’s okay.
  • It’s okay and it’s normal to feel this way!

When might you need to seek help for your child/family?

Most children and teenagers are very well nurtured and supported by their families, teachers and friends. However even despite this, some children can continue to struggle with their emotions, which can impact on how they behave, socialise, manage school and day to day life. There may be a need to access professional support; sometimes a parent support session might suffice. At other times children/teenagers would benefit from psychological support. However, parents should remain part of this support as supporting and empowering parents to care for their children is important.

Dr Kerry Sweeney offers a range of therapeutic models for children, teenagers and families. Her clinics are held within the Maypole Clinic in Holywood on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12pm - 2/3pm. Appointments and enquiries can be made by contacting Kingsbridge Private Hospital directly via email - or by texting Book Now to 66777 

For further information on our Child Psychology Services, please click here.

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