Eliza Fell, 10, of Montclair, NJ, woke up one weekday morning with a stomachache and begged her mom to keep her home from school. Though her mom, Maura, agreed, she wondered if Eliza was just trying to fake a sick day.
As it turns out, "School-related stress and 'sickness' can peak during the tween years," says Jill Grimes, M.D., an Austin, TX, family physician. Many kids experience chronic recurrent abdominal pain, particularly when middle school begins, as academic pressure ramps up and tweens feel they are losing control of their changing bodies.
Once you rule out signs of illness, such as fever or diarrhea, send your tween to school. If she protests, give her a few minutes to calm down, and tell her you'll make time to talk that evening. Then be sure to follow through, says Dr. Grimes. And try the following fixes for school-anxiety funk:
An antacid. These meds can settle stomach upset, and most kids -- especially girls -- need the extra calcium.
A higher-fiber diet. More fruits and veggies can help ease constipation, a source of stomach pain.
Teaching her to label her feelings. For example, say her stomach may be "tied up in knots" because of an upcoming math test. And let her know you feel her pain.
Exercise. A sweat session is a healthy way to deal with school woes. When your kid comes home, take her for a brisk walk or tell her to try some kickboxing moves. Her mood should perk up.
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