What grooming looks like, and how to cope afterwards, with Emma Cantrell artwork
Teenage Kicks Podcast

What grooming looks like, and how to cope afterwards, with Emma Cantrell

  • S2E27
  • 1:04:43
  • February 23rd 2021

*Trigger warning - episode contains references to sexual abuse.

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

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.

What is grooming?

  • Emma explains how grooming happened to her, and how it progressed to sexual abuse. 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 with digital parenting coach Elizabeth is reassuring.

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.

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 affected her through her adult life. 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

  • 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

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:

More teenage parenting tips:

There are lots more episodes of the Teenage Kicks podcast. You can email me on [email protected]. I’ve also got some posts on the blog that might help parents with other teenage parenting dilemmas, so do pop over to Actually Mummy if you fancy a read.

Thank you so much for listening! Subscribe now to the Teenage Kicks podcast to hear all my new episodes. I'll be talking to some fabulous guests about difficult things that happened to them as teenagers - including losing a parent, becoming a young carer, and being hospitalised with mental health problems - and how they overcame things to move on with their lives.

You can also find more from me on parenting teenagers on Instagram and Twitter @iamhelenwills.

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Please note that I am not a medical expert, and nothing in the podcast should be taken as medical advice. If you're worried about a teenager, please seek support from a medical professional.

Teenage Kicks Podcast

Welcome to the Teenage Kicks podcast, where we take the fear out of parenting - or becoming - a teenager. The internet is full of parenting advice, from when you feel those first baby kicks, until they reach secondary school. And then it stops. No one is talking about teen parenting problems; so we’re going to.

Essential listening for teenagers and their parents, as well as those who work with young adults; Teenage Kicks has teen mental health at its core, and each episode will empower young people to tackle their own problems, and give parents the guidance to know how to help them.

Each week Helen speaks to real individuals who've experienced the issues that young people are dealing with now, and they don't sugar-coat it. From exam nerves and career worries to issues around sexuality and consent, we get tips and advice from expert guests who understand what it’s like to be a teenager today.

Helen will also be chatting about tough teenage problems like cyberbullying and self-harm, drugs, alcohol and teenage pregnancy, all with a heavy dose of reality from someone who's been there and made it through to the other side.

Teenage Kicks for Parents:

As parents, we understand some of our kids’ struggles, but let’s face it, it’s been a while, and things have moved on since we last panicked over a detention! Teenage choices today can seem alien to their parents because teenage life has changed so dramatically since we were young. Teenage Kicks helps you unravel topics like social media, sexting and teen self-esteem so that you can figure out what your child needs support with, and what’s just normal teenage behaviour.


Teenage Kicks for Teens:

Teenagers and parents come at things from different angles, we know. But teenage life can be challenging, and the support of your parents can make navigating tricky dilemmas easier. Teenage Kicks guests aren’t adults who’ve read a textbook; nor are they heavily invested in your day-to-day safety, like your mum and dad. They are real people who’ve been through what you’re dealing with, and they have the inspiration and advice you need to handle it yourself.

Join Helen each week as she chats to a different guest about topics affecting teenagers in 2020, and helps parents and teens to open up a dialogue that will make life easier to navigate on all sides.

You'll also find me chatting about teen parenting here:

Useful websites:

  • The Mix - good information for under 25's
  • Shout - for anyone struggling with anxiety or depression

This series of the Teenage Kicks Podcast is sponsored by Blue Microphones, who gave me the fabulous Yeticaster mic for all my recordings. It's really straightforward to use, and gives me great sound quality without too much editing.


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Thank you so much for supporting me! I absolutely love creating this podcast, and helping people share stories that bring so much reassurance to families going through the same things as them. Every donation helps me keep making this free content for my listeners. I really do appreciate every listen and every review too!