Many adoptive children have come from home environments that have not consistently met their needs, and throughout their lives they will have experienced much trauma and loss. It’s not unusual for them to have developed certain coping mechanisms that can affect their behaviour and ways of interacting.
Due to this, they may show difficulties in accepting their adopted parent’s attempts to form relationships with them. Attachment difficulties can affect a child’s self-esteem, confidence and ability to trust.
Fortunately, there are several parenting techniques that you can use that will promote a feeling of safety for your child or children.
One of these techniques is called P.A.C.E parenting. So, What does PACE stand for?
Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy
P.A.C.E parenting is a way for you to therapeutically engage in conversation with your child. It’s about building up a positive parent-child relationship and reminding them that you’ll always be there for them. It helps promote secure attachments and allows children to reflect on their thoughts and behaviours without being judged.
When speaking about P.A.C.E, the child’s “Inner Life” is often mentioned, which refers to what is going on inside the child and the reasons for why they behave the way that they do. P.A.C.E parenting is a secure and reflective approach that concentrates on the whole child, not just the child’s behaviour.
Playfulness: Being playful together helps the bond between the two of you grow. It’s about having fun with your child and shows them it’s okay to have fun with their parents and promotes a positive connection between you both. Playfulness can allow them to feel safe without any of the scary feelings that the child is used to accompany safeness.
Acceptance: The parent shows an understanding of the child’s behaviour and accepts them, even though they are behaving this way. You’re showing them that you are not judging them, however where needed, you will show them appropriate consequences for their behaviour. These consequences should not include humiliating or shaming. It’s important to let the child learn that they are accepted just how they are.
So this means accepting the motivation of their behaviour, not their negative behaviour itself.
Curiosity: Being a curious parent will help gather an understanding of your child’s behaviour, which in turn will help with acceptance. Having a good knowledge of their history allows you to accept who your child is and understand why they might behave the way they do.
Often, your child will not understand why they behave the way they do and it’s important to be curious about their behaviour without using an angry tone. Try using a calmer tone and instead of asking “what did you do that for?” which they may not be able to answer, try questions that will demonstrate curiosity such as “I wonder why….”, or “What do you think was happening to make you do that?”.
Empathy: Being empathetic allows the child to feel safe with you and share their deeper feelings without the threat of being judged. Real empathy comes from the heart and can be used to relieve feelings of shame instead of concentrating on praise. You could use phrases like “That must have been really hard for you to tell me” or “I want you to realise I do understand what it is you are going through”. Try to reflect how the child is feeling, if the child is sad, be sad with them. This shows that you understand how difficult what they are going through is, and that you are with them.
Part of your assessment with our agency will include preparation to parent and care for a child that has not had the easiest start in life. You’ll attend training, do plenty of reading and complete tasks that prepare and teaches parents for the arrival of a child. P.A.C.E parenting is something that we go through in greater depth to equip you with the skills in order for you to use this technique in your daily life with your child.