CHILDLINE ADVICE: How a dinosaur talking PANTS can help vulnerable kids

We’ve spoken in this column before about how to talk to kids about difficult topics. Now, I want to add how it’s valuable to use books, drawings, and songs to help kids take in important messages.

These resources can make talking about a tough topic less intimidating, and better engage the child. At the NSPCC, we’ve created Pantosaurus the dinosaur to help parents talk to children about sexual abuse.

Pantosaurus the dinosaur is designed to get children and parents talking PANTS and, as a result, help children to recognise the signs of sexual abuse. Kids don’t always want to be lectured, but would rather explore information through what interests them; like colouring and dancing.

Pantosaurus has enabled parents and professionals across the country to start talking about child sexual abuse, which can often be a daunting topic to even consider talking to children about. Even as an adult, it can be difficult to comprehend that child sexual abuse can happen.

Last year, Childline carried out on average 12 counselling sessions every day in 2018/19 with children who have been sexually exploited. Our counsellors delivered 4,500 counselling sessions – up 16 per cent from the previous year - to children and young people, the youngest aged nine, who were coerced or forced into sexual activity.

That’s why it is so important to talk about child sexual abuse, so our children know that it is never their fault – and if the unthinkable does happen, to help them understand that what is happening is wrong and that they don’t have to be afraid to tell someone.

So, what are the PANTS rules? Well, PANTS stands for: Privates are private, Always remember your body belongs to you, No means no, Talk about secrets that upset you and finally Speak up, someone can help. Let children know if they ever feel sad, anxious or frightened they can talk to a trusted adult, a family member, a teacher, a friend’s parent or even Childline.

One boy saw Pantosaurus on the Childline website, and wrote on one of our message boards: “I liked how they made it clear that the kids had the right to say no to people in their own family as well”

We need to get to grips with this very emotive issue as any child can be at risk of being sexually abused - and it's important to remember this. Most children who've been sexually abused were abused by someone they know. This could be a family member, a friend or someone who has targeted them – like a teacher or sports coach. Children can also be targeted online.

Pantosaurus helps children to understand that they have the right to say no, through cartoons, songs, and drawings. The free resources, including activity packs and Pantosaurus’ catchy animation, help guide children and parents in a simple and family-friendly way.

So far, our Talk PANTS campaign has reached over 950,000 children across the UK. And with over 1.5 million views on YouTube, we know that our friendly dinosaur Pantosaurus has the potential to help millions more.

It is a very exciting time at the NSPCC as we have launched our first ever crowdfunding campaign to produce a Pantosaurus story book. The book is designed to help children revisit the PANTS story and understand it at their own pace.

We’re aiming to raise £50,000 to bring Pantosaurus into bookshelves, providing free copies for schools and NSPCC service centres, to help start the conversations to keep children safe from abuse, particularly sexual abuse.

If you can help, please make a pledge, any amount will go towards making a huge difference. To find out more visit crowdfunder.co.uk/nspcc-pantosaurus-book