NSPCC's PANTS campaign - how to help your child to stay safe

Margaret Gallagher
09 October, 2017 : 14:36
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Over the last few years, the NSPCC’s “Underwear Rule” campaign- also known as the PANTS campaign – has been supporting and encouraging parents to talk to children aged between four and 11 about staying safe from sexual abuse.

You’ve probably already talked to your children about things like crossing the road safely. But have you spoken to them about how to stay safe from sexual abuse? We know it’s a conversation no parent wants to have, but we believe it can feel just as natural and easy as the road safety chat. We call it talking PANTS. From P through to S, each letter gives an important message for children as young as four to help them stay safe. As part of the UK promotion of the campaign, the NSPCC in Northern Ireland is partnering with the Public Health Agency and the Health Improvement Department to deliver a community-based campaign in the Western Trust area aimed at spreading the word of the PANTS message to professionals and parents alike.

The PANTS tools and resources give adults clear and simple ways to open these conversations in a clear and child-friendly way. The key messages for children are:

  • P – Privates are privates
  • A – Always remember your body belongs to you
  • N – No means no
  • T – Talk about secrets that upset you
  • S – Speak up, someone can help.

An important conversation for parents to have

You may think: this isn’t for my child. No parent ever wants to think their child will be affected by sexual abuse, but that’s exactly why it’s vital you have this conversation – to help keep them safe. We also understand that talking about this topic might feel daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. PANTS has been created specifically – with the help of parents and professionals – to make sure these conversations are as easy and appropriate as possible for children from the age of four upwards.

Avoid scary words

You might feel that your child is too young to talk about sex, and that’s why PANTS never mentions it. It’s not about learning about the birds and the bees, but practical and reassuring messages to stay safe. Talking PANTS is about using simple, child-friendly language to give your child the confidence and knowledge to stay safe.

Finding the right moment to talk

Every family is different and when and where you have these conversations will depend on your child – it’s all about whatever feels natural for you and them. A few examples of where other parents have told us it worked for them have included when they are running their child’s bath, or helping them with things like getting dressed or applying cream.

A car journey is a great time to talk, as is the journey home from school or a weekend walk to the shops.

Going swimming is an ideal time to talk about the idea that what’s covered by your pants and your swimwear is private.

If they’ve had a lesson about personal relationships at school, ask them what they remember when they get home.

If their favourite TV programme is handling a sensitive storyline encourage them to talk about anything that upsets them.

Pantosaurus can help you find the right words

How and when you talk PANTS with your child is always your choice. After all, you know them better than anyone. Once you’re comfortable with all the messages, start talking PANTS with the help of our friendly dinosaur Pantosaurus featured throughout our website page and materials. Through games, songs and activities they introduce the main messages in fun and interesting ways. And you can start today!

What parents have already said about PANTS

Since we launched PANTS we’ve spoken to many parents who have had the conversation.

One mother told us, “I used swimming as a great opportunity to have a chat with my six-year-old daughter. I started with a question about why boys’ swimwear is different to girls’ and this led to a conversation about privacy. It gave me a really good starting point to introduce a delicate subject really easily.”

Another parent said, “I found it so empowering to have these really clear messages to use with my five-year-old. He understood what I was telling him – in fact he made me laugh one day after school when he stood up and proudly said “I know that what’s under my pants is private and I have told my teacher about this!"

Where to get more information to help

We have a range of other PANTS guides for parents, carers and children, including guides in a number of different languages and for people with a disability. We also have guides for foster carers, parents with a learning disability, parents of children with autism, and a film for deaf children. You can find these on the NSPCC website.

Who can help me if I have a question?

Don’t worry – we can help you answer them. You can find lots of information and support about talking PANTS. Or call the NSPCC helpline at any time on 0808 800 5000 for any advice or email us at help@nspcc.org.uk

Have you spoken to your child about staying safe from sexual abuse and used the PANTS campaign materials? Tell us about it by commenting below or on our Facebook page.  And do like and share via social media!

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Our blog is a place for a range of opinions and debate on parents and their role in their schools and their children’s education. Whilst we think this debate is really important, we don’t always agree with the views being expressed.


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Margaret Gallagher
Margaret Gallagher is the NSPCC Local Campaigns Manager for Northern Ireland, a role that creates multi-agency campaigning partnerships to respond to the safeguarding needs of professionals and communities. Margaret's role also supports the testing of NSPCC national campaign concepts and the delivery of these campaigns at a local level.

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