To Medicate or Not to Medicate?

This blog is mainly about books and reading, but it’s also about ADHD (see blog title if confused) so today I’m going to talk about that. To medicate or not to medicate? That is the question…that all parents of kids with ADHD have to navigate at some point. Also, EVERYONE has an opinion about the answer. How’s a parent to decide what to do? I have a lot of thoughts about this, so below are several things to consider if you’re facing this decision.

Disclaimer: this post does not intend to advocate for medication over other alternative treatments. Different things work for different people, by all means explore every available option. 

1. Is your child stressed about school?
Are assignments and homework a constant source of frustration? If it’s not that important, okay. But consider that your child may not understand why they can’t finish something when they’re trying so hard. I remember being incredibly frustrated with myself because I’d been sitting there TRYING for an hour and I was only half done. (Ever see those T-rex Trying cartoons? Yes, like that, only not funny.)

2. Is your child’s social life suffering?
Are they missing social cues and losing friends because they’re not paying attention or they blurt out whatever comes into their head? Many ADHD children are actually very sensitive and are often aware that others are frustrated with them even if they don’t understand why and can’t figure out how to fix it.

3. Could things be easier?
If your child is keeping up pretty well, could it be easier for them? Often kids with ADHD who keep up pretty well are working twice as hard as everyone else. My psychiatrist put it this way. “We wouldn’t give someone a 50 pound weight and then expect them to run track and keep up with everyone else. That’s just not fair.” Is your kid running the race with an extra 5o pounds?

4. Does your child feel there’s something wrong with them?
Kids are very perceptive. They know when something isn’t right. If they don’t know why it can lead to anxiety. If they don’t realize that their ADHD makes things harder for them than it does for their peers, they’ll think of other reasons to account for the difference that they feel. Reasons like, I’m stupid, dumb, lazy, etc. Acknowledging the real effects of ADHD can be a very liberating.

And finally the most important question.

5. Does your kid know that it’s okay if they need medication?
If we celebrate a kid stopping meds, (Yay, they don’t need the medication anymore!) that can send the message that they’re somehow “better” if they don’t need it. (Hello, far-reaching mental health implications!) After all, you want your child to feel that they are good enough regardless of whether or not they need medication right? Are you okay if they need medication? You’ll still love them right? You’ll still think they’re smart and funny and awesome regardless right? By all means, take them off the medication, but don’t throw a party. Leave that door open in case it’s needed at some future time.

Consider this. In elementary school the workload isn’t bad. Middle school is harder. High school is tougher still. And College can be a whole different ball game. What if they need medication later to reach their full potential? What if they don’t want to ask for help/medication because they feel they shouldn’t need it? What if they can’t handle the pressure, but taking medication holds such a stigma for them that they won’t consider it? I’ll tell you what will happen. (Well it’s a strong possibility anyway) They’ll self-medicate. Smoking, drugs, drinking. If you think I’m exaggerating go do a quick search on ADHD and substance abuse and then come back. I’ll wait. Remember, stimulants work the opposite way on an ADHD brain. Smoking may genuinely help them think more clearly.

The most important thing is that your child knows that they are good enough. With or without medication. With or without ADHD. They can be successful. They’re not stupid. They can be good friends. They are smart. They are capable of keeping up with others around them. If they need help that’s okay. It’s okay for them to be different. It’s okay for them to need help. It’s okay for them to take longer. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.

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