Posted on : Sunday March 1, 2009

Dear Counselor,

We have a daughter in the fourth grade who has always been a good student.  However, recently she has had repeated absences due to “illnesses” that seem to disappear by mid-morning when she stays home from school. We have taken her to the doctor on several occasions, but there seems to be nothing wrong. This is wreaking havoc in our schedules and we are beginning to dread when school is in session.          Perplexed Parent

Dear Perplexed Parent,

Your daughter may be suffering from School Anxiety, a problem that is not a psychiatric disorder, but affects about five percent of school-aged children. Children may refuse to attend school, have temper tantrums in the morning, resist getting ready, or have complaints of headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Since you have ruled out any medical complications and since the symptoms seem to disappear during the day and (I assume) do not appear on weekends, the signs point more to anxiety. Recent changes in the home or stress factors at school such as a bully, a strained teacher relationship, or new levels of academic learning can be contributing factors.

In working through the school anxiety with your daughter, you will want to monitor your own anxiety so that you can express care and concern to her, but not reward the behavior with special privileges or miss the opportunity to patiently help the child connect the fact that when she becomes less nervous, the symptoms go away. If symptoms persist, you may want to discuss the issue with your daughter’s teachers, speak with the school counselor, or find a Christian counselor who specializes in work with children and families.
I would also refer you to an article by Kim Cook on this subject in the October 2008 issue of Parentlife, pages 14-15 ( I have taken the above comments from her article, which includes many other suggestions as well. Kim is the new Executive Director of Centrepointe Counseling, Inc. and has an expertise in working with children and their families.  She can be reached at (800) 491-5369, ext. 102.

Tom Rodgerson