Question: My 4-year-old daughter comes home from daycare with bruises on her arms and legs. I’ve asked the daycare and they say she plays kind of rough. She doesn’t play like that at home, though. I also talked to other parents at the daycare and their kids don’t seem to have a lot of bruises. How do I know if she’s being mistreated or if it’s a health issue?
Answer: It’s good that you have noticed the bruises and asked the daycare and other parents about their children’s experiences. Have you asked your daughter if anyone is hurting her?
If not, the next step is to ask her. She might be able to tell you if something is wrong. There is also a chance that she won’t tell you what’s happening for various reasons. Either way, by asking her directly, you are showing her that you care about her, what happens to her, and what she tells you.
Next, regardless of her response, you should take your daughter to her pediatrician. Your daughter is at an age where she no longer sees her doctor as frequently as when she was a baby, so if there is a potential medical issue that occurs between scheduled check-ups, she should visit the doctor immediately.
Her doctor can help you determine whether her bruising is from playing rough, a health issue, or from mistreatment and can help you determine the next appropriate step for preventing it. Additionally, the doctor can document suspicious injuries and give you information on reporting those to authorities if necessary.
Hopefully the daycare provider is correct and your daughter is just playing a little rough, but you have every right to be concerned about your daughter’s safety. Consider spending a day at her daycare observing to make sure everything is okay there. Even if you need to take a day off work, it's worth it to make sure your daughter is safe there.
For more information on how to deal with your child’s injuries and doctor visits, please see Through the Early Years, the first book in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set. If you suspect your child is being abused, call the National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD.