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Health Problems Tied to Nerves
Q: My 11-year-old son hates school and is sick all the time. He has been diagnosed with gastritis and I'm sure it's because he's so anxious about school. Any advice?
A: Being anxious and worrying, at any age, can create medical problems. It is even more difficult to identify what came first: the illness, or falling behind and then becoming ill from worry. As well as consulting with your child's doctor on a regular basis, I suggest you do the following things:
- Set up a system so that your son can call a classmate or homework hotline to check on assignments and missed work.
- Arrange for a classmate to visit on days he is out of school to discuss what happened in school (the social happenings as well as the academic) so your son feels connected and part of the ongoing scene.
- Require your son to go to school even if he's ill. You can work with school personnel so that he can come home if he has to, otherwise; once he is there, he may feel well enough to stay. Dreading an event is usually much worse than the event turns out to be.
- Share progress reports with his doctor so she'll know how the medication is working for your son.
- Get your son connected to some activity, event, or person at school so he feels he has someone to turn to other than you. If he feels too comfortable with home, and not comfortable at school, he will want to stay home more. School should be less anxiety producing for him.
- Ask the teacher what your son can do to become stronger in any areas of academic weakness so he will not have to worry about being embarrassed by failure.
- Being consistent even when it hurts us to see our children ill or in pain will be very important. Keep up the efforts and you may avoid more serious school and health problems in the future.
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Judith Lee Ladd is a former president of the American School Counselor Association, a national organization of K-12 and post-secondary school counselors.
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