Introducing the Pantosaurus, NSPCC’s way of teaching children the “underwear rule”
Some parts of parenting can be difficult and now he’s 6 years old it’s time to have certain conversations with my son that honestly I am not prepared for. Protecting children from abuse is obviously important and one of the ways to do this is to have open dialogue but I really don’t want to. Not because I can’t talk to my son, but because I shouldn’t have to. I hate that, statistically 1 in 20 UK children have been sexually abused and that reality means I will do everything I can to avoid this!
1 in 3 children have been sexually abused but not told anyone about it and this means teaching our children to be open, honest and create a safe space without judgment is paramount. I saw the PANTS campaign and realised that this would be a good way to start the conversation with my son to teach him how to stay safe. Which is what we did.
So, what is the PANTS campaign?
PANTS stands for:
Privates are private.
Always remember your body belongs to you.
No means no.
Talk about secrets that upset you.
Speak up, someone can help.
It aims to educate children on how to behave if someone is inappropriate. The Pantosaurus is a cute and catchy character that is child accessible to help do this, and we found it useful. here is the video:
I was dreading the conversation but it actually went much better than I had anticipated. We watched the video twice and the second time danced along to the Pantosaurus (it’s hard not to.) Then we opened the discussion, some of the questions I asked were:
“Why did the Pantosaurus say no?”
“What did the Pantosaurus do after he said no?”
“Who can you talk to if you’re worried?”
“Why do we keep our private parts private?”
This prompted some excellent (and frank!) discussion about boundaries and I actually feel much better afterward. I would like to think that he would know what to do, but we’ve been having mini conversations about PANTS since then to reaffirm this and make sure it really sinks in.
NSPCC’s Pantosaurus Accessibility
I am particularly proud that they have also made this accessible to deaf children and those with learning disabilities as well which also prompted me to write this post. In many cases, deaf children don’t have a voice and need to be able to communicate just as effectively on abuse! Here is the video that includes BSL and signs to communicate PANTS.
For children with learning disabilities, here is a downloadable guide to PANTS and the Pantosaurus to print and remember.
7 Tips for Creating An Open Dialogue With Children About Abuse
- Multiple Conversations – Don’t try to get everything into one conversation, particularly with smaller children, we all know they switch off very quickly. Remember that they won’t appreciate the situation so drip feed it, bring it up from time to time and ask if they remember the Pantosaurus or PANTS rules.
- Role-Play – Try to put it into a situation they will understand, for example, we asked what he might do at the swimming pool or in the changing rooms, reiterating that you should always tell us if anything were to happen. Role-playing questions and answers help to stick in their mind.
- Create A Safe Space – Something I am working on at present is to remain calm in situations when we have a discussion and not let my emotions through. One of the essential ingredients to children being honest with you, is feeling they can tell you the truth without getting into trouble, no matter who is involved.
- Pick Your Moment – When you’re busy and rushing, it’s not the best time to talk about deep and emotional subjects! The NSPCC recommends several situations that might be better, for example; in the car, swimming or at bath time, all of these situations could prompt the underwear rule discussion.
- Be Honest – Like many other parenting moments, it’s my belief that you should be completely honest. Even when they ask the hard questions (and kids always do.)
- Understand the Approach – Children handle things in different ways so take on how they are reacting and adjust your approach to suit. My son tends to brush off the serious and aim for the silly so we danced to the song before talking about the nitty-gritty stuff.
- Activity Packs – The NSPCC website has activity packs (for a recommended £5 donation) for you both to fill in together that has challenges and games with a Pantosaurus focus which should help generate organic questions. Find those here.