6 things your tween or teen needs to understand about ADHD medication

Tweens and teens don’t always want to listen to what their parents have to say. But there are certain things kids with ADHD need to know about the medication they’re taking. Here are some important topics to raise, and ways to help them understand.

Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.

1. There’s a reason for taking medication.

What tweens or teens need to understand: The medication should help them focus and remember things better. It should also help them be more productive with their work.

What you might say: “It’s like wearing glasses because you don’t see clearly. You often have trouble paying attention, remembering things, and getting your work done — and you’re only going to be getting more work every year. This medication may help, and I want you to try it to see if it does.”

2. The medication may need to be adjusted.

What tweens or teens need to understand: Not all kids react the same way to a particular dose or medicine. The doctor may need to change the dosage or timing so it works well.

What you might say: “I hope this medication can help you in school and maybe also in other activities. It might need some adjustments to get the right amount and timing for you. I need you to let me know if and when it seems to be helping or seems not to be working right.”

3. Some mood changes are a normal reaction — at first.

What tweens or teens need to understand: Kids may worry that something’s wrong if they feel different than usual. If they seem too jittery, irritable, or serious for more than a few days, the dose or timing may need to be adjusted.

What you might say: “I need you to keep me posted on how you’re feeling, especially while the doctor is adjusting the dose. Let me know when the medicine seems to be helping. Also tell me if it doesn’t seem to be working well or you don’t feel like your regular self.

4. Never share ADHD medication.

What tweens or teens need to understand: Others may pressure kids to share their medication. Kids may even have medication stolen from their backpack, locker, or dorm room.

What you might say: “You absolutely cannot share your medication with anyone. Taking medication that isn’t prescribed to you can be very dangerous. It’s also illegal. It’s important to not tell people you’re taking or carrying medication, and to keep it out of sight. We can talk about ways you can respond if people ask or pressure you.”

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

What tweens or teens need to understand: The medicine works for a limited number of hours each day.

What you might say: “It takes a while for your medication to start working after you swallow it. And it stops working later in the day because it wears off. If your medicine wears off so early that it doesn’t help enough when you’re doing homework, we can ask the doctor about a booster dose of short-acting ADHD medicine. That should cover you without keeping you up too late.”

6. Medication isn’t a cure-all.

What tweens or teens need to understand: Medication can help with the symptoms of ADHD, but it won’t make everything suddenly go right or be easier to do.

What you might say: “This medication should help you with your ADHD-related problems, but it doesn’t fix everything or do your work for you. You’ll still need to work hard, and you may still face some challenges. We’ll work together on strategies to help with those challenges so you can do your best.”


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