Q:

Almost every school morning my son wakes up saying that his stomach hurts and he does not want to get out of bed and go to school. He has been checked out by the doctor several times, who can't find any problems. When he gets to school, my son will cry for at least half an hour in the classroom. Then the rest of the day goes well. Why is this happening? Neither his teacher nor I can figure it out. -- Puzzled

A:

Your son could have separation anxiety. Have there been any significant changes in the home such as death, divorce or a serious illness, which would enhance his sense of loss from leaving home? If this is true, your son might need help from a social worker or counselor.

In any case, a behavior-modification plan needs to be set up for these different stages:

  • -Saying good-bye at home.
  • -Getting to school.
  • -Entering the school building.
  • -Entering the classroom.

You will need to work with the school to develop this plan. Your son needs to be met at the school door by an adult who is close to him such as the principal, guidance counselor or other school personnel. This person can help him decompress and lessen his anxiety when he enters the building. Then his teacher needs to say a personal "hello" to him when he enters the room and have him start his morning work immediately.

Put these stages on a chart. Then give your son a point for each stage he is able to complete without crying. Give him a reward every time he accumulates eight points. You want to start the behavior plan now to help your son get control of himself even if he needs to see a counselor.