Warning signs to look out for if your child is being mistreated in childcare
"To be able to stand back and see what's troubling a child is important."
A recent RTÉ documentary examined the standards of childcare in a chain of creches in Dublin.
RTÉ Investigates - Creches, Behind Closed Doors aired on Wednesday, July 24 and investigated a number of facilities from the Hyde & Seek Childcare crèche chain following detailed concerns from members of the public.
The documentary depicted workers being told to dilute milk, children being fed substandard lunches, and extreme fire safety issues.
It also showed the creche's manager shouting at the children, pushing them away, and telling other workers not to console them when they were crying.
The film has, understandably, led to much concern among parents across the country who may be worried about the standard of care their own children receive in creche or other childcare facilities.
Psychotherapist and author Stella O'Malley says that there are certain things parents can look out for that may indicate how a child is being treated in creche.
Much of what's happening to a child while they're in daycare will be present in their behaviour outside of daycare, so it's important to note any changes in how they're acting.
“You can’t really judge it on how the child is entering or leaving the creche," she says. "It’s more about their behaviour afterwards."
"Is it negative? Is it positive? Are they sleeping as usual, are they napping as usual? Are they wetting the bed or are they eating?
"A child could suddenly start having tantrums and they wouldn’t have been the tantrum type before. To be able to stand back and to see what’s troubling a child is important, to see what’s changed.”
Stella says that a lot of children exhibit attachment issues when they first start childcare - an issue that is not related to the establishment, but the child's need to be with their mother or father.
In order to determine whether the problem is childcare-related or not, parents should look at the timing of when the behaviour shift started, and whether it continues during the first month or two of being in creche.
"Sometimes it can even be a new dynamic between a child and the child minder," says Stella.
"If there are any new workers in the creche, keep an eye on the child. If they’re moved to a new room, see how this impact them. A change can often lead to a change in behaviour.
"One worker can really change an atmosphere in all workplaces. It could be a great creche but if there’s one person there who isn’t the best, it can change things.”
Despite this, Stella says that parents need to be basing their worries on the perspective of an adult, and not that of a child.
As she says, "a three-year-old's analysis of a situation may not always be accurate."
"You need to go with the adult’s analysis, your own. Our childminder was a dream and yet my daughter always resisted going, and then years later I asked her what that was about and she said: ‘She always used to make us clean up after ourselves.’
“Most people are in childcare because they’re good at it and because they love it. If they don’t, they tend to get the hell out of there - usually."
Stella O'Malley is the author of the best-selling Cotton Wool Kids and Bully-Proof Kids.