It starts off with stomach complaints. I feel sick. I feel like I am going to throw up. I can’t go to school. You take them to the doctor. You give them antacid medication. Nothing seems to help.

This happens every year.

My Stomach hurts. I can’t go to school.

Are your kids unable to go to school because their stomach hurts? Are they fine on the weekends? Here's how to help.

They feel better on Saturday. They feel better on Sunday. But, then Sunday night it starts all over again. My stomach hurts. I can’t go to school.


Not again – you think! When will this stop? How can I help them?


[Click here to listen to my podcast episode on school refusal]

[Click here to listen to my podcast on anxiety and stomach pain]


Sound familiar? No, I am not stalking your family. I just hear this time and time again every school year.


I am flooded at the beginning of each new school year with a sea of children that have mysterious “week-day” stomach issues. Often – it is school anxiety.


They will tell you they love school. That they have friends. That they are not bullied – and that is all true. And yet – the same resistance to going to school happens every year. Welcome to the mysterious world of school anxiety.


Unfortunately anxiety often makes itself cozy in the pit of our stomach. Sometimes anxiety will skip the brain altogether and make a beeline to the stomach. If you find your child in this difficult predicament here is some guidance to help them:

1. Go to the doctor.

Say, what? She just got through telling us it is anxiety, why should we go to the doctor? For two reasons, 1) It is good to be over-cautious. You don’t want to second guess yourself or miss a true medical condition. 2) If the doctor can rule-out any medical origin this will help your child (and you) buy into the correlation between anxiety and stomach issues.

2. Tell your children that you understand their pain is real.

Even if it is anxiety wreaking havoc on their stomach – the pain is real. The pain is the same. So, when your children are doubled over on the toilet – they are really feeling that pain. When they say they feel like throwing up – they really feel like throwing up. Explain to your children that you know that they are hurting and you want to help them.

3. Explain how anxiety works.

Help your children understand how anxiety works. I sometimes explain it to kids this way (depending on their age):

Sometimes worries will make our stomach hurt. Sometimes we may not even know we are worried until we feel our stomach hurt. That can be really confusing.

Worries create acid in our stomach that can make us feel sick. Worries want to boss us around and want us to avoid things. When we avoid what it wants – it will grow bigger.

So, when your worries make your stomach hurt it wants you to avoid going to school. If you avoid school – guess what will happen? Your worries will grow bigger and your stomach will hurt every school day. You can’t cave and do what your worry wants – you have to shrink it by fighting back and going to school. The more you fight back, the less power it will have over you.


OTHER ARTICLES:  5 Tips on How to Parent your Anxious Child

Now, although that is a helpful story…prepare for a long battle with your child. There will be much resistance and many tears before this issue gets better. Sorry. But hang in there.

4. Avoid the knee-jerk reaction to keep them home.

And now for the tip that makes you scream at your computer. Try, try, try to get them to school as much as possible. I know – trust me – I know that at times this will be an impossible feat. Separate from literally carrying your children into school – this may not be possible at times. I get that – and I don’t suggest carrying them in their PJs. You want to just mentally know that your ultimate goal is to get them to attend school as much as you can.


Some parents feel like they are being cold and cruel by sending their children to school when they feel sick. Remind yourself that the doctor cleared your children of any medical condition outside of anxiety. If it is purely anxiety – letting their anxiety win will only make this problem grow bigger. You are helping them – by encouraging them to go to school and by keeping them at school when possible.


Their pain is real and their worries are real. Using brute force or punitive methods won’t work.


You children need help and so do you. Get support from the school counselor as soon as possible (if you have one) or the school administration. The school can work with you to develop a plan on how to help your children work through their anxiety.


OTHER ARTICLES:  Video Lesson: How to Help your Toddler through Separation Anxiety

I have worked with families where the children meet with the counselor in the mornings or goes to the nurse during the day when they feel sick. The trick is to keep them at school – even if they are in the nurse’s office some of the day.


I have worked with children who are allowed to stay home or even switch to home-schooling due to their anxiety problems. Unfortunately anxiety can grow after this happens – and some children’s anxiety will make them fearful of leaving their house in general.


5. Get your children into therapy.

Ahhh spoken like a true therapist – right? Not really. I don’t think therapy is the answer to everything – even though I am a therapist. This particular issue though – can go downhill fast. It is one of the most debilitating issues I deal with in my therapy sessions. Often when I dig deep enough there is an anxiety below all that stomach pain.


The 5 most common worries I see related to this problem are:


Afraid to be away from their mom – (I only feel okay when I am with her)
Worried about their safety
Worried about their mom’s safety
Afraid they are going to throw up at school
Worried they are going to do poorly on assignments (even though most of these children are academically advanced)

I know that this can be one of the most exhausting struggles as a parent. Get support so you do not have to fight this alone!

For more support read the article Teach Your Child to Fight Anxiety.


OTHER ARTICLES:  Are you Missing these 5 Uncommon Signs of Child Anxiety?

Have some gems up your sleeve to share with other parents struggling as well? Leave your comment below. We are all in this together!


Want more articles on Childhood Anxiety? Follow AT Parenting Survival Pinterest Boards.

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Additional Support

A teen support book on anxiety that your kid will actually read:

This book offers teen help, without the psychobabble. A must read for teens suffering with anxiety and parents who are trying to understand it!

If you are at a loss as to how to help your child manage anxiety, take the e-course Teach Your Kids to Crush Anxiety taught by a child therapist. Learn all the tools she teaches kids and teach them to your child. You don’t have to feel powerless.



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22 responses to “My Stomach Hurts. I Can’t Go to School!”

  1. Neil says:

    When my nephew was in first grade, every Monday morning, he used to get fever, reason was he was afraid to attend computer class. His computer teacher was very strict, and all kids were scared of her. He skipped few Mondays, and this was not happening. Then, his parents talked to the teacher, and things became normal later.

    It’s really heartbreaking to see kids in such kind of situation.

  2. […] might have been a hoarder, your mother might have had panic attacks and your child get’s too nervous to go to school – it is all […]

  3. […] want our children to sleep in their own beds. We want them to go to school without crying. We want them to go upstairs on their […]

  4. […] that were once enjoyable are now avoided. Going to school is a daily miracle. Instead of driving to the mall, you are driving to the doctor with mysterious […]

  5. […] child’s stomach hurts. They feel like throwing up. They are having gastrointestinal problems. You brought them to the […]

  6. […] children are having frequent stomach aches when they are worried, that may be an indication that they are suffering from […]

  7. […] will often feel nauseous when faced with situations that make them uncomfortable – like going to school, giving a speech or meeting new […]

  8. 5 Ways Caring Parents Make Teen Anxiety Worse – Huffington Post says:

    […] teen. It is a painful thing to watch. Activities that were once enjoyable are now avoided. Going to school is a daily miracle. Instead of driving to the mall, you are driving to the doctor with mysterious […]

  9. […] boxes – your kids may be more than a little less enthused. Some might even be developing a knot in their stomachs as the idea of a new school year […]

  10. […] they can fight back with their own green thoughts (positive thoughts). If their dictator tells them they will throw up at school – they need to counterattack with a thought such as “I never have before, so why would […]

  11. Clare Rush says:

    “You want to just mentally know that your ultimate goal is to get them to attend school as much as you can.” – I’m not sure this is the goal. My goal was for my kids to have an education that didn’t cause extreme anxiety. After 4 years of school we now home educate and this has been a really positive move for our family. I think we should be looking at why school is so anxiety inducing rather than how to get kids in the door. I now know a lot of home ed families and kids (100’s) and they are not closeted away, and my daughter still deals with anxiety in the home ed world but it is manageable and she is growing, the anxiety she experienced in school was debilitating, she did not learn and she was so sad and scared. I often see articles like this and I would say, you know your kids, you know how affected they are. Seek out alternatives and see how they work, you may find another world beyond school that works for you and your family.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      I agree – that for some, school is the source of anxiety, and if that is the case, you would want to assess an alternative learning environment.

      However, much more often going out and functioning in general is the source of the anxiety. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Emetophobia (fear of throwing up) and Panic Disorder are all triggered by being outside of the home.

      For kids, the major stress will be school, but for adults it will be work and other environments. When you avoid going out, you risk becoming agoraphobic (with the inability to leave the home at all).

      Sadly, in my practice I have watched kids succumb to anxiety and withdrawal from school only to find that their anxiety remains.

      They often start to get anxious doing simple things like going to the grocery store, going out to eat or leaving the house for an extended period of time. Some of the kids I have worked with who opted to do online schooling due to anxiety have grown up to become agoraphobic and have to take online college classes.

      This may not be the case for everyone, but statistically it is more common than not and the risk is increased greatly.

      • Clare Rush says:

        Thanks for your reply, your article does focus on school being the source of anxiety rather than going out and functioning in general, hence being fine for weeks out of school and then it rearing it’s head again when school starts back. I think we are in danger of missing and then not dealing with the root of a lot of school anxiety rather than missing the general social anxiety, as it very rarely seems to be acknowledged, which is where I felt your article was coming from. I think there is a huge elephant in the room when it comes to school anxiety and the fear if we remove the cause of the anxiety our kids may become agoraphobic or never build resilience.

        • Natasha Daniels says:

          I believe in social anxiety, Emetophobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder school is the trigger because it is the biggest element of stress in a child’s life as well as a daily responsibility outside of the home. When you remove the school stress, more often than not it moves on to other areas of the child’s life.

          • Clare Rush says:

            I guess I am very lucky to say that hasn’t been the case for us! I do think it’s important for parents to know this can be a VERY stressful place, so the reaction is not always that surprising. We have monitored anxiety levels, and my daughter regularly has to go out of her comfort zone, we’ve used a 1-10 scale and if her anxiety is in the 7-10 (which is what school was for her everyday) this means she was in a state of panic and I think that it was counter productive and not allowing her to grow. I still think there is an elephant in the room and it would be so helpful for parents if schools could address this.

          • Natasha Daniels says:

            I am glad your daughter continues to do well outside of school. Like I said, there are kids whose anxiety originates from school itself. It just isn’t the norm. I understand that some people have to homeschool their kids due to anxiety. It is so hard to parent anxious kiddos and there is a fine line between empowering them and pushing them too hard. It sounds like you are doing a great job continuing to encourage your child to go out of her comfort zone.

  12. Audrey Bueno says:

    It’s also important that children be checked for autism. Children with Asperger’s syndrome are notorious for having real trouble going to school.

  13. Kourtney Enriquez says:

    We are in the deep, dark, ugly trenches of separation anxiety that seems to be growing into gerneralized anxiety with my soon to be 7 year old son. We have a 504 but the school has done very little to provide support and resources. They keep pushing medication, home schooling or pushing for him to be in special education, but that takes time. To be fair, he has been eloping school at least twice a week for the last two weeks and I honestly don’t know what to do anymore. He’s been in therapy for 8 months and seeing a psychiatrist for 2 months and neither feel medication is appropriate and I make my son go to school every day but now it’s to the point that the minute he gets anxious the school calls us to pick him up. I know how important it is for him to keep going to overcome this anxiety but it feels like it’s just getting bigger and I’m at a loss of what to do anymore.

  14. Nesha says:

    Hi my Daughter 8year old she s studying n 3std she love to go school but past 7days she like to go school but when she reaches the she s getting stomach pain what I have to do pls reply

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