The end of an academic year can be difficult for many children (especially for children in care). While it brings a
degree of excitement and opportunity for growth, it can remind children of previous loss and separation. It can
evoke strong feelings of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, which can be difficult for a child and the adults around
them to understand and manage.
We need to help children, adults, and ourselves(!) to feel regulated. PACE (Dr Daniel Hughes) can be a useful
approach to use. PACE stands for playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, and empathy.
Playfulness: Playfulness isn’t about playing or telling jokes, but about bringing lightness to a situation and
showing the child you enjoy their company. For a child experiencing anxiety, fear, or loss around end of year transi-
tions, playfulness can bring them out of flight/flight.
This could involve sharing a snack together, playing a game of snap, telling each other about your favourite memory
from the year, guessing who will eat the most ice-cream over the summer!
Acceptance: Acceptance is about noticing what the child brings – their hopes, fears, views, and feelings, with-
out judgement, action, or advice giving. We might not agree with a child’s actions and responses but can pay atten-
tion to the feelings underlying them.
It is also important to notice how we are feeling – where we might be holding stress in our bodies, or difficult emo-
tions we are experiencing – this could be linked to our own response to transitions and endings, or
our role in caring for a child. Notice what is going on for yourself without judgement.
Curiosity: Curiosity involves taking an active interest in the child’s experience (or your own) and wondering
what’s going on. Even if we think we know what happening, we need to explore this openly with the child, so they
feel thought about and can safely begin to understand their experiences.
We might curiously wonder out loud ‘I wonder what’s making you feel so bouncy right now?’ ‘I might be
wrong, but I wonder if…’ ‘I can see this is scary for you. Can I share my ideas about why this feels so
Empathy: This is where we let the child know that we notice and understand their experience. It’s about ac-
knowledging, labelling, and sitting with the emotion (as uncomfortable as this can be). For example, ‘I can see
you’re feeling worried about saying goodbye’ ‘You’re doing your best to stay strong, but it’s hard’.
Transition periods are also stressful for adults, so offer yourself empathy and acceptance of your
own feelings. Try not to ignore or judge how you’re feeling – your feelings are valid and ok. Consid-
er what you need to care for yourself. ‘This job can be tough at times and I’m doing my best’.