Has your child been groomed?

*Trigger warning – episode contains references to sexual abuse.

The crazy thing… was that I felt really guilty 

Has your teenager been groomed? Or are you a young person experiencing grooming? In this episode Emma Cantrell talks about her experience of grooming from the age of 12 over a number of years.

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What does grooming mean?

The NSPCC defines grooming as follows:

  • Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. Children and young people who are groomed can be sexually abused, exploited or trafficked. Anybody can be a groomer, no matter their age, gender or race.

Listen to the podcast here

What is grooming?

Emma explains how grooming happened to her, and how it progressed from something as simple as a little attention, to sexual abuse. In Emma’s case her groomer wasn’t even someone her family would have suspected. Listen to the episode to hear how easily it can happen.

What is online grooming and should parents be worried?

Online grooming can be of great concern to parents, because it’s often easier for a groomer’s behaviour to go unnoticed. However it’s important to remember that grooming happens in all kinds of situations, not just in an online arena.

If you’re worried about screen time or social media apps, this episode of the podcast with digital parenting coach Elizabeth is reassuring.

And if you’re anxious about your child’s online activity, Elizabeth’s advice is to talk to them, as early as possible, and on an ongoing basis, about how to stay safe online, and in relationships outside of the home.

What are the signs of grooming?

As a parent it’s natural to worry when your child begins a relationship that could lead to sexual activity, but sometimes it’s the less obvious connections that need to be examined.

As Emma explains, she was in a situation of trust when she was groomed. So how can parents spot the warning signs of grooming? Here are some of the signs of grooming behaviour you might like to keep in mind:

  • being secretive about how they’re spending their time, both online and offline
  • having an older boyfriend or girlfriend
  • suddenly having more money than usual, or new things like clothes and mobile phones that they can’t or won’t explain
  • drinking or taking drugs
  • spending more or less time online or on their devices.

What are the long term effects of grooming?

Emma explains in the episode how the long term effects of grooming impacted her adult life, from feeling insecure in her own value, to working too hard to compensate for what she saw as her flaws. Listen to hear how it impacted her at university and beyond, including her development of an eating disorder, as well as issues with self-esteem.

Where to find help if you have experienced grooming

Emma eventually sought help for her emotional health through therapy, but it wasn’t until then that she worked through her trauma over what had happened to her as a young teen.

Emma’s overriding message to young people going through the same is to talk. If you can’t tell your parents find someone else you trust to start the process of getting help.

Additional resources to support children at risk of abuse:

  • The NSPCC has a really good page on grooming
  • There’s also a great page on Childline UK for questions children might have about what


What is grooming - Emma talks about coping with sexual abuse as a young teen

Who is Emma Cantrell?

Emma Cantrell is a charity founder and CEO, accidental runner and passionate Do Gooder. She has raised over £3m for small charities and can be found talking passionately about poverty, politics and her steadfast belief in the fundamental good in people to whoever will listen. She lives in Berkshire with her two children, Joni and Wilbur. 

You can find out more about Emma here:

Listen to the podcast:

You can find the episode in your usual podcast app, or if you prefer, you can listen online below, or through the podcast page.



Subscribe to the Teenage Kicks podcast

Thank you so much for listening! Subscribe now to the Teenage Kicks podcast to hear about the new series when it begins. I’ll be talking to some fabulous guests about difficult things that happened to them as teenagers – including losing a parent, being hospitalised with mental health problems, and battling an eating disorder – and how they overcame things to move on with their lives.

I’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for future topics on the Teenage Kicks podcast. Just email me on teenagekicks@gmail.com, or you can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @iamhelenwills. I appreciate every message, and love to hear from my listeners.

I’d love it if you’d rate and review the podcast on iTunes too – it would really help other people to find it. You can also find more from me on parenting teenagers on my blog Actually Mummy, and on Instagram and Twitter @iamhelenwills.

For information on your data privacy please visit Podcast.co. Please note that I am not a medical expert, and nothing in this blog or in the podcast should be taken as medical advice. If you’re worried about a young person please seek support from a medical professional.


Join me in the Teenage Kicks Facebook group!

If you’re a parent of teens it can be difficult to know where to go for advice, to vent, or just to talk. So I’ve made the Teenage Kicks Facebook group, for all parents of teenagers to chat in a safe space. You can request to join by clicking the button below. It’s a private group and everyone in there will be a parent of teenagers.

And if you’re stuck for how to engage with your teenager, this list of things for teens to do might be helpful.

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How to help your teenager cope if they are being groomed

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