The pros and cons of medicating ADHD kids is a hot topic that weighs heavy on the minds of our clients and other parents. It’s been on my mind, lately, too. Here’s my perspective and my story.
I generally take a holistic approach when it comes to my family’s health. We prefer to eat organic whenever possible, and I tend to choose more holistic remedies for managing illness.
In third grade, when my son was first diagnosed with ADHD, I was adamant that I would not medicate him. Even though I had been working in healthcare for many years, the idea of putting an 8 year old on a maintenance medication seemed extreme. I was convinced I would find an alternative, something other than what I assumed was a “brain-numbing” medication that I was convinced would turn my fun-loving daydreamer of a kid into a zombie.
Our Pediatrician was a saint. She was eternally patient with me, wanting to support my wishes. When I asked, she held firm on her perspective that medications have been proven to help most kids. Unless ruled out for some other clinical reason, she considered medication to be “best practice” for ADHD treatment.
At some point in the process, after hours of research and hair pulling, something she said to me stuck hard. “It’s clear that you want to do all you can for your son to help him be more successful. What if medication could work for him, but you weren’t willing to try it? Yes, there are potentially side effects, but typically they are not significant. He can always stop taking it if it doesn’t work, or the side effects are a problem.”
As a coach, we encourage our parents to use their values as a barometer for decision-making. Looking back, the values that were most important in helping me make my decision were: dedication to family, being responsible, striving for excellence, and being well educated.
I knew that I could always have my son stop taking the medication; but, if he never tried it, I wouldn’t really know if it would help him or not. Bottom line: I was committed to doing whatever I could to help my son. For me, that meant letting him try the medication and see what happened.
We were fortunate. The process of finding a medication “fit” was easy for us. The first medication we tried worked quite well, and its effects appeared instantly. He was like a new kid, literally, in a matter of hours. His side effects were mild and manageable. After that first week, I never looked back. It was clear to me that I had done the right thing for my son.
My son is now a teenager. Sometimes we end up in conversations about whether or not he has to take his pills, particularly when he’s not in school. He knows that they help, but sometimes he thinks that he would be better off not taking them. Ultimately he doesn’t like to feel “different.” That’s a big deal for most teens. I have compassion for how he feels. I also hold fast to the house rule that he take his medication (most of the time).
Here’s why I choose to medicate my ADHD son:
- For my son: He has a neurobiological disorder of the brain, and medication definitely helps his brain to focus and to work more efficiently. If he had diabetes, I would never question whether or not to put him on insulin if he was an appropriate candidate.
- For me: To be honest, it makes my life easier when he takes his medication. Being a parent of a special needs kid is more than challenging. It’s often overwhelming and highly stressful. Having a child that is a little more focused and a little less emotional takes some pressure off. It helps to support me in staying out of crisis mode, and in being more of the parent I know I want to be. It also helps me feel like I’m doing all I can to help him be successful. Yes, we can debate what it means to be successful, but that is a whole other blog.
- For the other people in his life: Like it or not, society rewards people for “fitting in.” If you know me, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of beating your own drum. I am also a realist. My parents always told me, “you attract more flies with honey.” I want my son to be attractive.
Ultimately everything comes back to my son. I know that he feels better about himself and his life when he feels more productive and connected, and when things are less of a struggle. He may not always remember this – after all, he is a kid with ADHD — so I get to be his mirror. When he is an adult, he’ll be able to make his own decisions. For now, while he is still under my direct care, I get the added bonus of knowing that I’ve made a powerful choice to support my ADHD kid!
“Photo courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhoto.net” Modified on Canva