Let’s Talk About PANTS

The PANTS rule was created by the NSPCC as a way to talk to your child about being in control of their bodies and keeping their private bits private. It’s a way of preventing abuse without having to talk about abuse specifically.

P stands for Privates are Private. This is about teaching children that their pants cover up their private bits. Those are the bits that aren’t for other people to see, unless it’s a parent or medical professional and then they should explain why and ask the child for permission first.

A stands for Always Remember Your Body Belongs To You. A vitally important message and one that really needs to be taught from a young age. Children should not be made to do something with their bodies that makes them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

N stands for No means No. Even if it’s a trusted family member asking for a hug, a child has the right to say no and it’s our job to teach them that. And if they say no, their choice should be respected, not treated like a bad thing.

T stands for Talk About Secrets That Upset You. Children should feel that if someone tells them a secret they feel uncomfortable with, they can tell another grown up they trust. Two of our key values as a family are honesty and being open with each other. If it’s something like a birthday surprise, then we say it’s a ‘Good secret’, to make clear that it’s not something bad that’s being hidden.

S stands for Speak Up, Someone Can Help. This is about making sure a child knows they have a range of people to speak to if someone does something to make them feel scared or uncomfortable. Again, this is about making sure there’s open discussion and that any problem or worry can be talked about and wherever possible, we’re here to help.

The NSPCC have also created a fun character – Pantosaurus – complete with his song about PANTS. This makes the whole message that bit more child friendly and hopefully memorable too!

I cannot overstate how importantly I view this conversation. It’ll take a bit of time and maybe there’ll be some awkward questions but you’re keeping your child safe. I know it’s not something we want to think about but child abuse does happen. I think many people have some stereotype in mind of the kind of family abuse occurs in but this is simply false.

If you read my last ‘Let’s Talk About…’ post, you’ll know that I’m a survivor of child abuse myself. I can tell you that from my personal experience, if I had been told the PANTS rule, I might have told someone right when the abuse began, before the serious damage had been done. Instead I just felt scared and confused, convinced to hide what was happening. I, and many other people like me, could have been saved from a horrific childhood, as well as a lifetime of consequences to deal with.

Please have this conversation with your child today.

Thanks for reading.

The Importance of the Underwear Rule

If you’re a parent, you might well have heard of the NSPCC’s Underwear Rule campaign. It’s all about discussing privacy with your child. Teaching them that their body is their own and nobody has the right to touch it without their permission, except if there’s a medical reason and that should be explained. Teaching them that the parts of their body covered by underwear are private and are not to be seen or touched by anyone except perhaps when parents help with washing or, again, if there’s a medical reason which should always be explained as fully as possible. Teaching them that they can talk to you about anything, even if someone else told them it should be kept secret.

A lot of what is included in the campaign are things we had been telling Pip for a long while. We’ve always said that she shouldn’t keep secrets from us because we’re a family and should be open about everything. We haven’t put this in a ‘You’re not allowed to keep secrets because it’s naughty’ way, but more of a ‘You can talk to Mummy and Daddy about anything’ way.

A few weeks ago, she wandered in while I was in the shower without knocking. Now, this isn’t a big deal, she’s seen me without clothes before. It’s pretty much unavoidable. However, I did say that she should have knocked first and shouldn’t really come in the bathroom while someone is using it because that’s private. After I was out of the shower, I decided to use it as an opportunity to bring up the issue of privacy. I tried to explain that parts of our bodies are private. She asked which parts so, remembering the message from NSPCC, told her that everything that’s covered up by her pants are private. At which point, she looked a little confused and told me something.

‘But [name of little boy in her nursery class] put his hand in my pants.’

I was utterly shocked but stayed as calm as I could. I asked her to repeat what she had said, which she did, then asked in a very gentle tone if she was sure – she has made up things that people did at school before. We talked through the details of what had happened. While they had been playing outside, this boy had put his hand down the front of her pants. He also did the same to two other children. Pip had told him to get off of her but hadn’t really realised that it was so wrong. I explained that he shouldn’t have put his hand there because that’s a private place. I should point out that he did just place his hand in that area, nothing more than that, although that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a very concerning thing to happen.

I telephoned the nursery and, without saying why, asked to have a meeting with the teacher. It was arranged and, after dropping Pip off, I went in. I’ve always liked Pip’s teacher. She’s very enthusiastic and was very supportive when Pip had trouble settling in initially. When I described what Pip had told me, she looked very shocked. I relayed everything that Pip told me. She apologised that it hadn’t been noticed but really, I can’t expect that three adults can be looking at what every child in a class of about twenty is doing in every moment. From what Pip told me, the whole incident had taken a minute or less. The teacher said that she’d need to speak with her headteacher as there are procedures to follow in these circumstances. She promised to get back to me by the end of the day.

Husband managed to leave work early so that he could come with me to pick up Pip that afternoon and speak with the teacher. She took us to one side and explained that she had spoken with the headmaster and would be arranging to speak with the boy’s parents. She assured us that she and the other staff would be keeping an eye out for any similar behaviour. We were very satisfied with how they handled things.

The whole experience was pretty disturbing. Luckily, Pip had forgotten all about it within a couple of days. I hope she hasn’t forgotten what I tried to teach her about privacy. I think we’ll give gentle reminders when it’s relevant. She does at least knock before coming into the bathroom now so I suppose that’s progress.

Have you spoken to your children about privacy or the Underwear Rule? How did you approach it?

Thank you for reading.