April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. It’s not a fun topic, but it is important for everyone – especially nannies – to be aware of the signs of abuse and appropriate preventative measures. This is especially so during the time of quarantine we’re living in. With no schools to go to, many children have no place to report abuse, and they have nobody looking for these signs. However, many families still employ a nanny – whether that’s in person, or virtually – who can be the advocate their child needs.
Signs a Child Might be Being Abused
- Is the child withdrawn from friends or their normal daily activities?
- Has the child’s school performance gone down?
- Does the child have a strong reluctance to go home or to visit some other specific person or place?
- Has the child attempted to run away from home or commit some form of self-harm?
- Are there unexplained injuries on the child’s body?
- Is the child suffering from UTIs?
- Is there a lack of care for medical problems?
- Does the child have difficulty swallowing or experience pain while swallowing?
- Does the child know more about sex than they should for their age?
- Do they describe sexual scenes?
- Has the child made inappropriate sexual contact with other children?
- Does the child have bloodied underwear?
- Does the child suffer from unexplained pain, redness, itchiness, or bleeding in the genital area?
- Has the child lost previously obtained developmental skills?
- Does the child intensely seek affection?
- Does the child obsessively apologize?
- Has the child had an increase in nightmares or bedwetting?
- Is the child behaving erratically and with sudden mood swings?
- Has the child developed anxiety or depression?
Keep your eyes open for any of these symptoms. Remember to trust your gut. If you have any uneasy feelings of suspicion, keep your eyes open for more signs of abuse.
If you are concerned for a child under your care, reach out to social workers who can help. Remember, the best way to protect children is to prevent abuse. How can nannies prevent child abuse?
How Nannies Can Prevent Child Abuse
There are two basic preventative measures you can take:
- Reinforce adult’s responsibility to protect children
- Teach the children skills they need to protect themselves
Here are some tips from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Children’s Bureau:
- Take an active role in your children’s lives. Learn about their activities and people with whom they are involved. Stay alert for possible problems.
- Watch for “grooming” behaviors in adults who spend time with your child. Warning signs may include frequently finding ways to be alone with your child, ignoring your child’s need for privacy (e.g., in the bathroom), or giving gifts or money for no particular occasion.
- Ensure that organizations, groups, and teams that your children are involved with minimize one-on-one time between children and adults. Ask how staff and volunteers are screened and supervised.
- Monitor children’s use of technology, including cell phones, social networking sites, and messaging. Review their friends lists regularly and ask about any people you don’t recognize.
- If your child tells you that he or she has been abused, stay calm, listen carefully, and never blame the child. Thank your child for telling you. Report the abuse right away.
Teaching Your Child Prevention
- Make sure your children know that they can talk to you about anything that bothers or confuses them.
- Teach children accurate names of private body parts and the difference between touches that are “okay” and “not okay.”
- Empower children to make decisions about their bodies by allowing them age-appropriate privacy and encouraging them to say “no” when they do not want to touch or be touched by others—even in nonsexual ways.
- Teach children to take care of their own bodies (e.g., bathing or using the bathroom) so they do not have to rely on adults or older children for help.
- Educate children about the difference between good secrets (such as birthday surprises) and bad secrets (those that make the child feel unsafe or uncomfortable).
- Ask your children if they are concerned for any other kids they know.
Trust your instincts! If you are concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.
To report child abuse or neglect, please contact Childhelp USA at 1.800.4 A Child (1-800-422-4453)
The parents are a child’s first line of defense, make sure your nanny family knows this information and practices it. Discuss with the parents how you could talk about this with your nanny kids.
Sadly, abuse often happens at home. A nanny has more access to the nuclear family than any other caregiver. Use that advantage to help prevent abuse in the homes you work in. Look for signs of abuse and train kids to protect themselves.