Let’s talk about sexual abuse. I mean, let’s talk about it right now, with children early and often. For many, the idea of broaching the subject with a child who is still getting to grips with key other developments and speaking about how they can stay safe from sexual abuse can seem like a difficult task. How will I ensure that I don’t scare them? How do I ensure their parents are happy with this? Some may welcome the desire to broach the subject while others will want to kick the can down the road until their son or daughter is well into their teens.
However, when you consider that one child in every 20 suffers some form of sexual abuse the argument for having this conversation as early as possible becomes increasingly persuasive. It is also important to recognise that the old adage of ‘stranger danger’ now only applies in a small percentage of cases, with a third of all child sexual offences committed by other children and 90% of perpetrators being known to their victims.
The good news is that there is an easy way to talk to children about how to stay safe without using scary words or even mentioning sex. At the NSPCC we simply call this Talking PANTS. From P through to S, each letter stands for an important rule for kids to remember - Privates are private, Always remember your body belongs to you, No means no, Talk about secrets that upset you and Speak up – someone can help.
Helping us to spread this message is our favourite cartoon dinosaur, Pantosaurus, who was recently introduced to the world with a catchy song and activity pack and now has his own game which is free to download from the iOS and Android app store. ‘Playtime with Pantosaurus’ features four mini challenges where children test their skills against Pantosaurus and his friends whilst learning the PANTS rule.
Research suggests the rules are most valuable when taught at a young age, and children can start to be taught them from around the age of three. However, we understand that this is a sensitive subject matter to approach with younger children.
That’s why we’ve put together some guidance specifically for talking PANTS with children aged 3 to 5 years with the help of parents and staff from the early years and childcare sector. It aims to support early years and childcare providers who would like to introduce Talk PANTS.
We have a range of PANTS guides for parents and carers including guides in Welsh, guides for people with a disability and for children with autism. Our Talk PANTS poster can be downloaded from the NSPCC website, along with other resources so you can easily share our keep safe messages with those in your care.
At the same time it is important that parents have their own conversations with their child. Much better to do this bit by bit rather than trying to deal with it all in one go, weaving these chats into everyday discussions instead of turning it into a big deal. Parents can use the Talk PANTS parent guides tips on how to get the conversation started and be reassured that they more they talk about it, the less awkward and uncomfortable they will feel. They can also feel more confident in being able to handle any questions from their child though our online advice.
Most importantly, working together with parents, you will also have the peace of mind that you are equipping children with vital knowledge to help keep them safe now and in the future, both online and out in the real world.
So, if you’re ready to start talking PANTS, there’s three things you could do:
- Share the PANTS information with parents- our guidance has a template letter/email for you to share basic PANTS information.
- Read our PANTS early years guidance and other resources to decide what would work best for you and the children in your care.
- Talk to each other. Great ideas on PANTS activities often come from colleagues!
We know that children find it hard to speak up. Together, we can all play a part in keeping more children safe from abuse.