If you trust someone to watch your children while you work or spend childfree time with your partner or friends, you need to know the signs of abuse. Some caregivers abuse the children in their care or do not offer the level of supervision you expect. Consider some of the following warning signs of child abuse and be sure to investigate immediately if you suspect a caregiver, daycare employee, or babysitter has abused your child. Remember that Texas law requires anyone who suspects or witnesses child abuse of any kind to report it to the authorities immediately.
Children are remarkably resilient, but they typically do not process trauma in the same way adults do. Many children respond to trauma by mentally blocking it out or replacing it with something that makes sense to them, such as an imaginary monster taking the place of a real-world abuser. Victims of child abuse tend to process trauma in unpredictable ways, and regressive behaviors are common signs a child has endured some form of abuse.
- A potty-trained child who consistently sleeps through the night without wetting the bed may start having bedwetting incidents following abuse.
- Sucking thumbs, cuddling with a baby blanket, or otherwise reverting to younger behavior should be a major red flag for any parent. This is often a coping mechanism for younger children who cannot psychologically process abuse the way an adult can.
- A child abused at daycare or by a babysitter may start lashing out in other ways, such as protesting going to school or going to bed on time.
Any noticeable changes in your child’s behavior require investigation.
Physical Signs of Abuse
Your child will likely have many cuts and scrapes growing up, just as any child would from playing outside and roughhousing with friends, but these are explainable and reasonable injuries in most cases. If you notice any injuries that your child cannot explain or seems to avoid talking about, consider this a major red flag.
- Check for bruising that looks like finger marks, a sign that a caregiver may have mishandled or directly abused your child in some way.
- If your child suffers an injury at a daycare, there should be an incident report on record. If the injury happened while in the care of a babysitter or nanny, expect a thorough explanation.
- Any type of injury or bleeding around the genitals or rectum is a major indicator of sexual abuse. Contact the police immediately and seek medical treatment for your child for a diagnosis of his or her condition.
Marked Changes in Behavior
Just as children sometimes regress to acting younger than their current ages, they may also process trauma by acting out in unpredictable or even dangerous ways.
- An abused child may start abusing or bullying others.
- A child who previously performed well in school and consistently good behavior may start neglecting schoolwork or acting out in the classroom.
- An abused child may start getting physical with parents or refuse personal contact.
It is vital to discuss these changes with your child and let him or her know you can help. Encourage an open conversation and be receptive to your child’s feelings. Many children suffer abuse and do not know how to handle it or how to ask for help. If you are argumentative or doubtful of what your child tells you, the results can be devastating. If a child believes no one will help this can cause severe psychological trauma and allow the abuse to continue unabated.
If you notice any of these signs of abuse with your child, it is crucial to investigate them immediately. This is especially true if your child hates going to school or daycare or protests when a certain babysitter comes to watch him or her; the child may be acting out of fear but does not know how to articulate the problem.