At one point or another, each of our kid’s stomachs has hurt before school. Usually, it starts the night before, when they are lying in bed, thinking about school in the morning. I know that they don’t realize it and would never admit it, but it boils down to one thing: anxiety.
Every year starts out the same… the kids are ready to go and they are excited!
Soon after, it begins… the belly aches.
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When our kids are nervous about school it causes their little tummies to hurt. It is just like a grown up when you have a new job or when you are going to a job that you find stressful. Our kids all love their teachers (I could go on & on about how wonderful their teachers are), so it isn’t that. I think that sometimes our kids just miss us during the day. The thought of being away from us for that long is hard for them.
I can remember when my cousin (10 years younger than me) would cry before school. My mom told her the story about how I did the same thing when I was in elementary school. I just think that it is something that most kids seem to go through.
So… even knowing all of this, when our son was having belly aches for days at a time, I still took our son to the doctor because I was worried. They told us to add fiber to his diet with a drink supplement because many children tend to have belly aches that stem from having too much feces in their intestines. Once we were able to rule that out as well as other things, we knew that it was separation anxiety.
When our children get belly aches before school, here is what we do:
1- Talk about something fun that we are going to do after school. Distraction, but bringing a positive to “tomorrow”. Maybe you can go to the playground or out for ice cream? Maybe a bike ride or a walk with the dog?
2- Talk about the funny kids in his/her class. “Did ____ do anything funny today? She’s always making everyone laugh!”
3- Ask about any tests that are going to happen that week (maybe that is the reason for the stress) and how being prepared can minimize that stress.
4- Ask if anyone in the class is being unkind (another cause of stress). Several years ago, our son was so upset for a week, with belly aches every morning and every night before bed. Finally, he told me that two of his friends were being mean to him at school. Once we handled it, his belly stopped hurting.
5- Pray with and for your child. I have found that teaching our kids to lean on God instead of placing all of the pressure on themselves is so helpful. “Let someone else handle it today.”
6- Ask them “What is the worst that could happen?” If they are worried about a test- what’s the worst that can happen? They miss a question? That’s ok. We have one son that is so worried that he might talk in class and get in trouble that he worries about it. I ask him “what’s the worse that can happen? Your teacher tells you to stop? That’s ok. You’ll stop and you’ll remember to follow the rules. Not a big deal.”
7- Send a picture of your family for him to keep in his pocket. I had wallets made of our family picture & put one in each of our their backpacks.
7- Write a note & stick it in his lunchbox.
8- Volunteer as a classroom reader.
9- See if you can have lunch with the class. That middle of the day visit might be enough to get them through the rest of the day.
10- Pick your child up as a car rider. This always helps them, because they get to see me about 45 minutes sooner.
The good news is that it should eventually stop. Yes, it lasted for a very long time with one of our kids, but this year has been so much better! Another one of our kids has gone through phases of it hurting or not hurting (maybe depending on what has been going on at school).
Try, as much as possible, to listen to your kids… don’t solve their problems, but just listen. Talk to friends, too- friends have the best advice and tips sometimes. Speaking of tips, every week I send out an e-mail with parenting tips (or organizing tips… something to encourage & help parents). If you would like to get it… it is free… you can sign up here. (I’ll send you my free PARENTING HACKS book, too.)