PANTS: Your questions answered

As you talk PANTS with your child, it's natural for them to have some questions. We've got advice to help you answer them accurately and in an age appropriate way.

Tips and advice on talking PANTS

We've answered some common questions that parents have asked us. And we've got tips on how to answer questions your child may ask you.

Questions from parents

PANTS is all about giving child-friendly practical and reassuring advice. We don’t want to upset or scare families and we definitely don’t want to make children feel they can’t accept a hug or a kiss from an adult.

We want to make talking about sexual abuse and keeping safe as easy as teaching your child about crossing the road safely.

All the information we’ve provided has been developed with parents and experts in parenting and child protection. And with Pantosaurus and our exciting activities, children can learn in a fun way.

If your child says something that seems far too ‘adult’ for their age, or worries you in any other way, your initial response is really important. You should try to stay calm. Whatever you think and feel, it’s about reacting with love, support, openness and reassurance. If your child tells you something, whether it’s about them or a friend, know that it’s probably a huge relief for them to be able to tell you.

The next step is to get some advice – talk to a teacher at school, children’s services or get in touch with us on 0808 800 5000. We’re here 24/7 to give advice and support.

If it’s nothing to worry about, you can feel assured that you’ve checked it out. If the professional advises that it might need more exploration, they can support you along the way.

You know your child best and how you respond will depend on the situation and the circumstances. But it may be appropriate to say:

      • Thank you for talking to me about this. You can always talk to me about anything that is worrying you.
      • What happened was horrible but it’s not your fault. No child should ever be treated like that.
      • I’m here to help and look after you and I’m taking what you say very seriously. I’m going to think about what you said and I may need to get advice from someone who knows about these things.
      • If you remember anything else or are worried, come and talk to me.

Your child can also get confidential support from Childline by calling free on 0800 1111 or through Childline.org.uk.

In our PANTS materials, we never talk about sex or use scary words. We focus on keeping safe and rules that help children understand important messages, like their body belongs to them and they should tell an adult if they're upset or worried.

It’s a difficult thing to think about but we know that children are sometimes sexually abused by adults who are family members and by people who are known to them. They can also be sexually abused by young people.

You don’t want to alarm or distress your child and anything you say should be age appropriate for your child.

When talking PANTS with your children you should always emphasise that if anyone (even a member of the family or friend) touches them in an inappropriate way or makes them feel uncomfortable, they should tell an adult they trust.

If you have concerns that your child is being abused you can discuss it with the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000. Our experts are here 24/7 to give advice and support.

Questions from children

Being naked is not a matter of right or wrong or good or bad. It is more to do with the situation and how appropriate it is.

You’ll probably want to discuss these questions, if they are raised, as a family, including the children. Explain that no one should be made to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed or be forced to do something they’re unhappy with. Think about the ages of your children when you’re answering them.

You could say to children:

      • It’s not about “good” or “bad” but more about what is the best way to behave in different situations.
      • You don’t walk down the road with no clothes on, you don’t take a bath or shower with clothes on and you wouldn’t swim in a public swimming pool with no swimming costume.
      • No one should ever be made to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. We need to respect each other’s feelings.
      • If you ever feel uncomfortable or worried talk to me, or another adult you trust such as auntie, uncle, teacher, coach.

Your child can also get confidential support from Childline by calling free on 0800 1111 or through Childline.org.uk.

Like many adults, children may well not understand why anyone would want to touch them under their pants. And you don’t want to frighten them, so choose what you say, and your words, carefully.

Children develop and mature differently. When they’re young keep what you say simple and you can go into more detail as they grow older.

You could say to children:

    • That’s a very difficult question and there’s no one answer that is right - even grown ups don’t agree on the answer.
    • We don’t always know why people want to do some things. But what is important is that you know it’s not OK.
    • Whatever the reason, the most important thing to remember is that it’s never OK for someone to touch you under your underwear. You can always say NO. And you must tell someone you trust if something like this happened.
    • A doctor, a nurse, or someone else whose job it is to look after you, may need to examine you under your underwear but they will always ask for your permission first.

For many children this is not an issue and you should try to avoid creating a problem if possible. But if they do seem uncomfortable with this remember that children should never be made to kiss or be kissed by someone or forced to have hugs, cuddles or sit on someone’s lap against their will. That includes family relations or family friends of all ages. 

Talk to your children if they tell you or you see that they don’t want to kiss or be kissed and try and find out why and explain that you will help tell the other person that this is what this child wishes to do.

Children may worry about offending older family members but it’s important that you reassure them that it’s always their choice.

You then may want to have a conversation with the family member or friend  and explain how your child feels. You might explain that your child loves or likes them but at the moment doesn’t feel comfortable with physical signs of affection.

Try and find a way your child can still greet your family or friends that suits them such as giving a high five or shaking hands.

You could say to children:

    • Your body belongs to you and it’s always your choice.
    • You don’t have to kiss or cuddle – or be kissed and cuddled – by anyone you don’t want to or who makes you feel uncomfortable, including family members and friends. If you feel that way, you should talk to me about it.

 

It’s a difficult thing to think about but we know that children are sometimes sexually abused by adults who are family members and by people who are known to them. They can also be sexually abused by young people.

You don’t want to alarm or distress your child and anything you say should be age appropriate for your child.

You could say to children:

If anyone touches you under your underwear you should tell someone you trust. No one should ever do this. And if anyone, even someone you know, touches you in this way, I want you to tell me or someone else you trust.

Your child can also get confidential support from Childline by calling free on 0800 1111 or through Childline.org.uk.

You could say to children:

Whatever colour your underwear is, it covers up your private parts and no one should ask to see or touch them. If someone does, say ‘no’ and tell me right away. Sometimes, a doctor, nurse or family members might have to. But they should always explain why, and ask you if it’s okay first.

Get the conversation started with your activity pack.

Our PANTS activity pack makes it easy to talk to your child about staying safe from harm. With a word search, dot-to-dot and maze game, you can help them learn without using any scary words. 

Get your activity pack

Carol's story about talking PANTS

Carol tells us why she feels like a better parent since talking PANTS with her daughter. Get your PANTS activity pack and start the conversation with your child.

Read Carol's story

Get more support

Worried about a child?

If you're worried about a child, even if you're unsure, contact our professional counsellors 24/7 for help, advice and support.

Call us or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

0808 800 5000

Report a concern

Talking about difficult topics

There are lots of ways to make it a bit less painful for you both when it comes time to talk about a 'difficult' subject.
Get advice for parents

Childline

Childline is our free, confidential helpline for children and young people. Whenever children need us, Childline is there for them – online, on the phone, anytime.

0800 1111

Visit childline.org.uk