There are lots of factors and feelings to consider before you decide whether ADHD medication might be an option for your child. It’s a very personal choice. Before you decide on medication for your child, ask yourself these questions.
1. Are you familiar with different types of ADHD treatment? While stimulant medication is the most effective form of treatment for ADHD, there are other options like cognitive behavior therapy that can be tried with or without medication. Mindfulness meditation and exercise have also been found to have beneficial effects.
Read more about ADHD treatment options, including medication alternatives.
2. Are you aware of the different types of medication for ADHD? There are two types of medication for ADHD: stimulants and non-stimulants. In studies, stimulants were found to be more effective for treating ADHD than non-stimulants. Ask your child’s doctor about which medication might be right for your child.
3. Do you see a significant potential benefit from medication? Which aspects of your child’s challenges would be helped by ADHD medication? Be sure to discuss this with the prescriber. Keep in mind that medication doesn’t get rid of ADHD symptoms altogether. But when ADHD medication works well, symptoms occur less often and are less intense.
4. Is your child on other medications or any supplements? Some supplements can impact the central nervous system and change the way the body absorbs medication. And some prescribed medications may interact with ADHD medication. Make sure you tell your child’s prescriber about any prescribed or over-the-counter medications your child is taking, along with herbal supplements, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3s.
5. Has your child’s prescriber answered all your questions about possible side effects? All medications can have side effects. Ask your prescriber about what to expect. In the case of ADHD medication, side effects may be different depending on whether your child uses a stimulant or non-stimulant medication. With a stimulant medication, for instance, your child may experience ADHD medication rebound.
Side effects often go away on their own after a few days. But if they don’t, let your prescriber know.
6. Have you and the doctor talked about follow-up appointments? There’s no test that tells a prescriber what medication will work best for your child. So dosages and medications may need to be changed or “fine-tuned.” That’s why it’s important to have follow-up appointments to check on how your child is doing with the medication.
Let the doctor know if your child doesn’t seem like himself. Also tell the doctor if your child’s behavior is improving with the medication and if he feels better overall. See signs that your child’s ADHD medication needs fine-tuning.
7. Does your child understand the risks of ADHD medication misuse? Some kids may unintentionally misuse ADHD medication. Other kids may deliberately take a higher dosage than what is prescribed or “share” medication. Make sure your child understands the responsibility and the seriousness that comes with taking ADHD medication. Misuse can lead to abuse and even addiction in rare cases. Read more about ADHD medication misuse.
8. What does your child need to know about the medication? The amount and type of information you share depends on your child’s age and maturity. If your child is younger, you may want to encourage your child to tell you if they’re feeling strange or not like themself. For older children, you may want to discuss the importance of keeping medication in a secure, labeled container.
Read more about what young kids and teens and tweens need to know about ADHD medication.
9. Are you and your partner on the same page? If you have a parenting partner, open communication about your child’s medication is key. It’s important that you both help stick to the prescriber’s instructions. Talk openly with each other about benefits and side effects that you may notice when parenting your child on your own.
Make sure you’re on the same page about the medication regimen. That includes whether the prescriber OK’d having your child take breaks from the medication on weekends or over the summer. (Stopping certain medications can lead to withdrawal or have other negative effects on your child, so any breaks should always be approved by the doctor.)
Another thing to keep in mind is that ADHD is genetic. So if your child has ADHD, there’s a chance that you or your child’s other parent may have it, too. Seeking your own treatment can help you be the best parent you can be. If you’re open to being tested, learn more about who can evaluate adults for ADHD.
And hear from others who’ve been there. Read what one mom wishes people knew about parenting a child with ADHD. See what Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles says about taking ADHD medication. And explore a collection of ADHD success stories.
Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.
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About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Stephanie Moulton Sarkis, PhD is an ADHD/ASD expert and a best-selling author.