10 Signs of Emotional Abuse by the Nanny

With watchdog sites like I Saw Your Nanny gaining visibility, parents are more aware of the possibility that their children might potentially be suffering emotional abuse inflicted by caregivers. If you’re worried that your nanny might be emotionally abusing your child, here are some of the most common warning signs to look out for.

  1. Fearful or Withdrawn Behavior – If your formerly exuberant child is showing signs of timidity, shyness or is suddenly withdrawn and distant, this may be a sign of emotional abuse.
  2. Anxiety About Doing Wrong – A child that seems nervous and is preoccupied with the idea of misbehaving may be suffering from verbal or emotional abuse. Repeatedly asking if they’ve done something wrong or needing reassurance that their behavior is acceptable can be a symptom of abuse.
  3. Extremes in Behavior – Consistent extreme behavior of any sort can be a tell-tale sign of emotional abuse. Acting out, frequent tantrums and anger are only one end of the spectrum; showing extreme signs of any emotion should be investigated.
  4. Detachment from a Caregiver – If your child seems detached or distant from the nanny, or shows signs of fear when she enters the room, this could be a sign that she’s mistreating them.
  5. Irrational Fears – Most children suffer from irrational fears at some point during childhood, but fears that affect their daily lives or willingness to participate in activities they once enjoyed can point to mistreatment.
  6. Excessively Clingy – A child that becomes significantly more clingy or needy than normal may be suffering at the hands of a caregiver. Conversely, a child that seems aloof to parents or unwilling to interact with them may be blaming the parent for what they perceive as “allowing” a nanny to abuse them.
  7. Nightmares or Sleep Disturbances – Occasional nightmares are also par for the course in childhood, but nightmares that increase in frequency or problems sleeping can be the result of anxiety that stems from abuse.
  8. Loss of Appetite – Extreme anxiety can often cause a loss of appetite; if your child’s eating habits change or you have difficulty getting a child to eat, it may be cause for concern.
  9. Change in School Performance – Plummeting grades or behavioral problems at school are often the first and most reliable sign of abuse. If you find yourself being called in to speak with teachers or principals, it might be a good idea to ask them if they feel that abuse at the hands of a childcare provider could be to blame.
  10. Changes in Speech – Reluctance to speak from a once-chatty child, or sudden problems with stuttering or stammering are a classic sign of abuse.

Some children show very subtle changes in conduct, while others may exhibit extreme red-flag behavior. Remember that no one knows your child better than you do, and follow your intuition. The fallout from emotional abuse can follow a child well into adulthood, so it’s important to take action the moment you suspect mistreatment.

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