No matter how old you are, change prompts anxious feelings. We’re actually wired to be on high alert when the situation is unfamiliar. So it’s no surprise that the start of a new school year can make children and teens anxious.
Anxiety about school sometimes takes the form of headaches and stomachaches in the morning that kids say make them too sick to go to school. If your child develops a pattern of these symptoms, it’s important to get your child checked out by a pediatrician; you don’t want to overlook a medical problem.
But if the pattern persists, going to school may be the problem.
The most important thing a parent can do when children resist going is to continue sending them to school anyway. This may be difficult, but if we allow children to avoid situations that make them anxious, we can inadvertently reinforce that those situations are indeed dangerous or scary.
But if a child continues to complain about physical symptoms, it’s also important to investigate what might be causing anxiety. It could be sign of an anxiety disorder, or another problem at school. For instance:
A child with OCD might avoid going to school because it’s hard for him to manage his anxiety there
A child who’s been bullied may be afraid to go to school because his tormenters are there
A child with separation anxiety might be afraid something terrible will happen to mom if they’re apart
A child with an undiagnosed learning disorder might be avoiding shame and embarrassment