Driving home over the busy Tyne Bridge this week I heard an advert on the radio that immediately got my attention, it was a campaign advert from the NSPCC regarding ‘The Underwear Rule’, it’s a campaign designed to show parents a fun way to make their children aware of the dangers of sexual abuse without scaring them.
I have previously blogged about the importance of ‘Stranger Danger’ which is an important conversation every parent should have with their children, but sadly it’s not enough to keep our children safe, most abuse is closer to home.
It’s every parents’ worst nightmare to find their child has been touched inappropriately and no family wants to think it will ever happen to them. But as the statistics show it does happen to one in 20 kids, and nine times out of ten by someone known to the child.
If we are to tackle this issue we must prevent it before it even starts, to do this we must educate our children about staying safe and speaking out.
The Underwear Rule is a simple way that parents can help keep children safe from abuse.
We know talking to your child about private parts can seem difficult, but you can have simple conversations about keeping safe without using scary words or mentioning sex.
NSPCC have developed PANTS as an easy way to teach children that their body belongs to them and to talk to a trusted adult if they ever feel scared or upset.
Learn the Underwear Rule and you’ve got it covered
PANTS is an easy way for you to explain to your child the key elements of the Underwear Rule:
Privates are private
Be clear with your child that parts of their body covered by underwear are private. No one should ask your child to touch or look at parts of their body covered by underwear.
If anyone tries to touch their private parts, tell your child to say “no” and to tell an adult they trust about what has happened.
In some situations, people – family members at bathtime, or doctors and nurses – may need to touch your child’s private parts.
Explain that this is OK, but that those people should always explain why, and ask your child if it’s OK first.
Always remember your body belongs to you
Let your child know their body belongs to them, and no one else.
It can be helpful to talk about the difference between good touch and bad touch:
Good touch is helpful or comforting like a hug from someone you love.
Bad touch is being touched in a way that that makes you feel uncomfortable.
No one has the right to make them do anything with their body that makes them feel uncomfortable. And if anyone tries, tell your child they have the right to say no.
This can be a good time to remind your child that they can always talk to you about anything which worries or upsets them.
N- No means no
Make sure your child understands that they have the right to say “no” to unwanted touch – even to a family member or someone they know or love.
This shows that they’re in control of their body and their feelings should be respected.
If a child feels confident to say no to their own family, they are more likely to say no to others.
T- Talk about secrets that upset you
Your child needs to feel able to speak up about a secret that’s worrying them and confident that saying something won’t get them into trouble.
To help them feel clear and comfortable about what to share and when, explain the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ secrets.
- make you feel worried, uneasy, sad or frightened
- may be asked to be kept in exchange for something
- bad secrets often have no end time.
- can be nice things like surprise parties or presents for someone else
- will usually be shared in the end
It’s important that your child knows the difference because ‘secrets’ are often an abusers greatest weapon in stopping a child from telling anybody about abuse.
Phrases like “it’s our little secret” are their way of making a child feel worried, or scared to tell someone what is happening to them.
S- Speak up, someone can help
Tell your child that if they ever feel sad, anxious or frightened they should talk to an adult they trust.
A trusted adult doesn’t have to be a family member. It can also be:
- a teacher
- a grandparent, uncle or aunty
- a friend’s parent, or
Whoever they feel most comfortable talking to, reassure your child this adult will listen, and can help stop whatever is making them upset.
The more your child is aware of all the people they can turn to, the more likely they are to tell someone as
soon as they have a worry.
Remind your child that whatever the problem, it’s not their fault and they will never get into trouble for speaking up.
NSPCC – Tips & techniques for talking
If your child has learned about relationships or personal safety, ask what they remember – it will give you a starting point from which to begin more detailed conversations.
Talking over the TV
TV can be a great way of opening up tricky topics. Though we might sometimes wish our children hadn’t heard something in the news or on a soap, it’s best to address the point head on rather than dismiss it, or pretend it hasn’t happened.
The bedtime routine
When you’re getting your child ready for bed – or helping them tie their shoelaces or get dressed – you could talk about times when a trusted adult might need to touch them.
Driving it home
Car journeys are a great time to talk to your child. They’re in a comfortable setting, with limited distractions. If you’re on your way to school, you could ask about who they would tell at school if something was upsetting them.
Don’t shy away from your child’s difficult questions. Reward their curiosity by speaking to your child honestly. Talking frankly will make the subject less shocking, and you’ll show yourself to be someone they can confide in.