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Medications

6 Things Your Tween or Teen Needs to Understand About ADHD Medication

By The Understood Team

96Found this helpful
96Found this helpful

Tweens and teens don’t always want to listen to what their parents have to say. But there are certain things your child with ADHD needs to know about the medication he’s taking. Here are some important topics to raise, and ways to help him understand.

Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.

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There’s a reason for taking medication.

What your tween or teen needs to understand: The medication should help him focus and remember things better. It should also help him be more productive with his 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.”

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The medication may need to be adjusted.

What your teen or tween needs to understand: Not all kids react the same way to a particular dose or medicine. The doctor may need to change the dose or timing so it works well for him.

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.”

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Some mood changes are a normal reaction—at first.

What your tween or teen needs to understand: He may worry that something’s wrong if he feels different than usual. If he seems 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.

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Never share ADHD medication.

What your tween or teen needs to understand: Kids may pressure him to share his medication. He may even have medication stolen from his 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.”

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ADHD medication doesn’t work around the clock.

What your tween or teen needs 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 if she can give you a booster dose of short-acting ADHD medicine. That should to cover you without keeping you up too late.”

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Medication isn’t a cure-all.

What your tween or teen needs 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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About the Author

Understood Team Graphic

The Understood Team is composed of writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Tom Brown

Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

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