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Good morning, and thanks for writing to JA.
I'm sorry that your son is going through a "rough time" right now. I think it's important for you to know that many children experience anxiety in the school setting. This is both "work" and "play" for them - and it's important for them (especially bright and popular kids) to feel like they feel secure and "in control" over their own environment. Believe it or not, these kiddos grow out of this problem with little difficulty. (Heck - *I* used to be one of these kiddos myself!)
Your GP's recommendation to reduce trips to the bathroom is ideal - and makes sense. Might I also suggest some options that we often employ... (I have done this with students in the role of both a clinician (working from a hospital setting) and as a school psych (working at the school itself)...)
During off-hours, in the company of a supportive school representative (it can be the school counselor, psychologist, nurse, or Principal/Asst. Principal)... take some time with your son to practice in the bathrooms and to feel accustomed to trips there and build up periods of success in the bathroom. Sometimes the frequent trips to the bathroom are really a reflection of concerns about going to the bathroom in a public place. Sometimes bathrooms in schools can be very loud and exacerbate anxiety - and this may be why your son chooses to go during "off hours" - because if he went when all the other boys go - it would be overwhelming for him. It might also be possible to check out some other bathroom options in the school... is there one with fewer stalls? One in a more quiet hallway? etc?
Also, establishing that relationship with an adult in the building will help him have an additional "escape valve" instead of just the bathroom. If he starts to feel overly anxious, a trip (even a 5-10 minute trip) to the nurse or counselor or psychologist can be just the trick!
Finally, there may be a possibility that your son is experiencing real organic digestive distress (not just based upon anxiety). If this is the case, consultation with a nutritionist or perhaps allergist might be in order. If he's in genuine, physiological distress (not just a manifestation of anxiety), that should be thoroughly explored.
I hope this helps - and that you remember your son will get through this little "speed bump" in development with relative ease. In just a short while, mom/dad... he'll be asking to borrow the keys to the family car! :)
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Thankyou for your reply, just one last question, is it correct, until the anxiety dies down, that his teachers should excuse him from assemby, which is the main worry for him during school? We do not want to cause another, dominio effect problem, from being maybe over-caring parents? who just want to correct this worry and not inflate it.
Hope this makes sense, he is an only child.
Many thanks again.
Unfortunately, being excused from assemblies will actually reinforce the fear of them. Scads and scads of research demonstrates that the best way to overcome anxiety/fear is to experience it and "unlearn" the fear response. Getting out of the assembly means getting out of the opportunity to learn that there's nothing to be scared about. And, even if he has a terrific wind - nobody will really get hurt - including him!
If you'd like to try a more in-between-step... (we call this shaping behavior), have him sit along the outside of the assembly... or at a far row. But, I would encourage you to encourage him that participating in the thing that makes him scared will help him realize he's got nothing to be scared about.
Hope that helps... and best of luck to you and your son!