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My eight-year-old daughter doesn't want to go to school. For the past few months, she has said she doesn't feel well a couple of times a week and I let her stay home. She complains of stomach aches but the doctor says there's nothing wrong. Now she's fallen behind and has missed a lot. She likes her teacher and has friends. I don't know if this means the school isn't good or there are other problems. What do you suggest? A Guest expert Silvia Silberman, MA, answers: You may think of a tummy ache or other body pain as a way of expressing pain, preoccupation or anxiety that is otherwise difficult to express. Eight-year-olds' preoccupations usually belong to one of three realms: 1.

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Our eight-year-old has been experiencing what looks like separation anxiety. She doesn't want to play at friends' houses, only wants friends to come to our house. When she leaves for school in the morning, she asks, "Are you SURE you'll be here when I get home?" Last summer, we needed to leave her and her 13-year-old brother at their grandmother's for a week and she called home crying every day. Our daughter is generally cautious but other than this anxiety behavior, she is happy, generally well behaved and does well in school. How can we understand this behavior and how can we help her? Alan Flashman, MD, answers: It sounds like your eight-year-old has a tendency towards anxiety, which is far from unusual in eight-year-olds.
Published in Emotional Reactions

Dear Dr. Sylvia, We listen to your radio program every week and have found this site as a way to ask a question that is pretty complicated. We have guardianship of our six-year-old granddaughter, Shelley, daughter of our adopted daughter who came to us at age three. Shelley's mom has many problems, among them attachment issues that have followed her all her life. Shelley, her firstborn, was eight weeks premature, and is a twin whose sister died at one month from complications of pre-maturity. Shelley has been with us permanently since she was four-and-a-half. Before that, she spent weekends, which became longer and longer. She is now six. Lately she's been expressing feelings of abandonment: "My mommy loves Jennifer (her two-year-old half sister) better than me.

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One of my surprisingly vivid childhood memories comes from my days as a short and mildly uncoordinated centerfielder for my Little League team. I would spend the majority of the games standing in the outfield eating my baseball glove and counting dandelions. Very little could snap me out of my outfield boredom trance. I would realize that it was our team's turn to bat when a guy in a different colored uniform would be standing next to me in the outfield. Yup, I was oblivious to the world. But I did notice Super Coach. Super Coach, as he was known by all the Little League parents, was a Little League father and coach, as well as a walking advertisement for his son, the Boy Wonder.

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Q: Dear Dr. Sylvia, I have a soon-to-be ten-year-old son already experiencing girl problems. At first I thought it was the usual boyfriend-girlfriend cute thing all the kids go through, but now I see it is much serious. He walks this girl to her car everyday after school while carrying her books. He writes her letters telling her how much he loves her. The other day he said she broke up with him and he started to cry. He didn't want to go to school the next day for fear she may do it again. He was sent down to the office twice complaining he didn't feel well. Now he isn't doing so well in school. He isn't allowed to talk to the girl on the phone anymore, and I told him to tell her that they should only be friends (which I don't think he has done).

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Our six-year-old son, who is a middle child, has a very hard time taking criticism. When we scold him for hurting someone accidentally or for bad behavior he gets extremely angry and embarrassed and usually runs off to his room yelling and crying and doesn't want to see us. A short while later, his rage seems to abate, but we're wondering if there is something we can do to help him accept criticism and understand that he needn't be so angry when such things happen. A Guest Expert Marcia Levine, MA, answers: Many children have rather colorful reactions at this age to correction and to blows to their self-esteem. Your son is at the age when he has internalized your standards; they have become his own.

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