6 things your grade-schooler needs to understand about ADHD medication

Knowing how to talk to your grade-schooler about ADHD medication can be tricky. But there are certain things kids need to know about the medication they’re taking to help with ADHD symptoms. Here are some important topics to raise, and ways to help kids understand.

Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.

1. There’s a reason for taking medication.

What kids need to understand: The medication should help with paying attention and remembering things better. Many kids need medication to help with that.

What you might say: “Some kids have trouble seeing things clearly, and wearing glasses helps them. You often have trouble paying attention, remembering things, and getting your work done. This medication may help with that. I want you to try it to see if it does.”

2. The medication may need to be adjusted.

What kids need to understand: Not all kids react the same way to medicine. The doctor may need to change the amount or timing of the medication so it works well.

What you might say: “The doctor needs to know if the medicine is working the best it can. It would help a lot if you could tell me about any times of day when it feels like the medicine is helping, or if it seems like it’s not doing its job.”

3. There may be temporary mood changes.

What kids need to understand: Sometimes medication can make people feel jittery or too crabby or too serious. That may mean it needs adjusting. It’s important for your child to tell you what it feels like when using the medication.

What you might say: “Let us know if there’s anything about the medicine you don’t like, or that makes you feel not like your regular self. Sometimes that happens in the very beginning. But if we all know how you’re feeling, the doctor can tell if it needs to be adjusted.”

4. ADHD medication doesn’t work around the clock.

What kids need to understand: The medicine works only for a limited number of hours each day. It’s not active in the morning before it kicks in or later in the day when it wears off.

What you might say: “It takes a while for the medicine to start working after you swallow it. And it stops working sometime later in the day because it wears off. Just like glasses don’t help people see when they’re not wearing them, the medicine only helps during the hours it’s doing its job.”

5. Kids need adult supervision when taking medication.

What kids need to understand: Grade-schoolers are too young to take medication on their own. For their own safety, they need to have an adult present.

What you might say: “Medicines can be very helpful when they’re taken the right way. But if someone takes the wrong one or the wrong amount, it might make them sick. It’s very important that you only take this medication when an adult gives it to you.”

6. Medication isn’t a cure-all.

What kids need to understand: Medication isn’t magic. It can help kids pay attention better, work better, and remember things better. But they’ll still have to work hard and do their best to listen.

What you might say: “This medicine won’t do your schoolwork for you or make you pay attention when you should be listening. But if it works like we hope it will, it should make it easier for you to be able to focus and do your work.”


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