Ideally you would be able to plan a time and place to explain what is going to the children. This may not be possible if something happens suddenly or the children find out from another source.

If you can:

Find a time when you will not be disturbed.

Put phones on silent, ask the children to do the same.

If someone knocks at the door don’t answer it – it’s sacred time.

If they don’t know, then introduce the conversation with something like:

‘There’s something I need to talk to you all about. It’s important so I don’t want us to be disturbed. Shall we go into the lounge for a bit.’

 ‘I’ve turned my phone onto silent so we don’t get distracted by calls, I’d like you to do the same.’

‘It’s about Dad. There’s something he’s done I need to tell you about.’

If they do know, you might say something like:

‘I want to talk to you about Dad so you understand what is going on.’

What and how much you say will depend on the age of the child/children.

Keep it short, factual and as simple as you can.

To a five year old you might say:

‘Daddy has been naughty. He has been looking at pictures on the computer that he shouldn’t. He’s at the police station talking to them about it.’

To a teenager you might say:

‘The police have been to the house. They found child pornography on Dad’s computer. They have taken him for questioning and also taken away all the computers in the house.’

The children are likely to have questions.

Make sure you respond to what they have asked, but do not tell them about more than they have asked, as they may not be ready for additional information.

Ask whether what you have said answers their question.

Ask them if they have any more questions.

Tell them they can come to you are any time to talk about it.


How do I tell the school

To protect your children it is essential that you tell the school what is going on before pupils or staff hear about it from another source, such as the papers.

This will be a difficult conversation, but you taking the lead will bring the school on board to support you and your children.

Make an appointment with the Headteacher. Be polite but firm using words like ‘urgent’ and if necessary ‘child protection’ to see them quickly.

Once you are with the Headteacher, to help you find your way into the conversation you may find it helps to use phrases like:

‘I have something very difficult I need to tell you.’

 ‘Thank you for seeing me so quickly, there is something you need to know about.’

 Then tell them what you want them to know. Don’t worry if you get upset at this point, that would be perfectly understandable, and the Headteacher will know their job is to support you as well as your children.

Explain that you want to protect the children, and ask how the school can help do that. Tell them your concerns about the children being picked on by other pupils, and ask about the school’s anti-bullying policy.

At the end of the conversation ask if you can meet again in a week or two to review the situation.


Written for StopSO by Lucinda Neall, author of 4 books: Bringing the Best out in Boys: Communication Strategies for Teachers; About Our Boys; How to Talk to Teenagers.  A Life Guide for Teenagers

Explaining a change in surname to the children (in this instance there was a baby in the family too)

The easiest thing to do may be for you and the children to take your maiden name, as it still defines you as a family and these days it is not uncommon for children to have their mother’s surname.

To get clear on whether you want to change your name or not write down all the reasons you think it’s a good idea.

What might happen if you don’t: to you; to the kids; to your baby when it’s older?

This will help you know what to say.

You don’t need to scare the children, but you do need to warn them. If you have an example of what has already happened refer to that.

Enrol the oldest child, who will understand more about social media, in helping explain to the others.

You might say something like this:

I’ve thought about this a lot and decided that we need to make a fresh start for ourselves and use my family name instead of Dad’s. This means I’ll have the same name I had before I was married and you’ll have the same surname as [Granny/Grandad/your cousins].

We are not rejecting Dad by changing our name, [we still love him]. But if we keep his name then people who criticise him will criticise us. He wouldn’t want that. [I’ve spoken to him about it and he thinks it’s a good idea to change to my family’s name.]

If you need to explain it more you might say something like:

The people on social media don’t understand our situation.

Some believe that people who look at child pornography are paedophiles.

We know this isn’t true, but many people don’t.

Dad’s name has been on social media a lot, and instead of people being sympathetic to what we are going through, they think it’s ok to give us a hard time as well because we share his surname.

And because everything stays on the internet forever it means that at any time in the future, even when you are grown up [and have your own family], some stranger on the internet might find out about Dad’s case and connect it to one of us. I don’t want our baby to go through what you have been through when s/he it older.

What to say to friends:

Your friends may think it is a bit strange to change your name. But I think they will understand once you have explained it to them. It might even give them a lesson about social media so they think twice about what they post to other people. What do you think might be the best way of explaining it?

Lucinda Neall  Author of: About Our Boys, Bringing out the Best in Boys, How to Talk to Teenagers, A Life Guide for Teenagers