Five questions to ask before starting meds for kids

5 questions to ask before starting meds for kids

Deciding to medicate your child for ADHD, autism, or depression is a huge decision and one that is usually a last resort for most parents. Starting meds for kids is a decision that definitely needs to be taken seriously. Personally, I waited longer than I should have to use meds for depression and meds for ADHD for my kids because I was afraid of the side effects and, quite honestly, I was conditioned that using medication was a ‘cop out.’ In the end, my experience that after starting meds for kids, my children really benefitted from the use of medicine (in addition to other interventions). We probably could have had those benefits sooner if I had been a bit more confident. 

Ask yourself these five questions before starting meds for kids. You will either gain confidence to add meds to your child’s day or the confidence to wait.

  • Is it effective? The first thing you need to know is if the meds for kids is going to actually work! The great news is that pharmaceutical intervention has tons of research on everything from side effects to efficacy and you can access that research and make an informed decision. The second great news is that meds DO work and they work really well when they are prescribed and taken responsibly. 
  • What are the side effects and drawbacks? All medications have the potential for side effects, but some are relatively mild and some are much more worrisome. It’s great to know what the side effects are, but also the incidence of side effects (the number of people who actually get side effects). For example, 11 percent of children under six who take medication for ADHD have side effects severe enough that they discontinue the medicine. That means 89 percent have enough benefit that they continue to take the medicine and aren’t bothered…or at least aren’t bothered enough by the side effects. 
  • Is my child’s behavior interfering with their daily life or development? This is the big deciding factor for most parents for starting meds for kids. Usually, parents get to the desperation point and they “just can’t take it anymore”. Consider that if you, the adult, have made it to the point where you are pushed to your limits, your child has been struggling just as much, if not more, for just as long or longer. If a child is not able to learn, have friends, or have fun because of their behavior or mood, that is likely more damaging to their development than the side effects of drugs might be. 
  • Do I have an objective way to monitor the effects of medication? The key here is an effective way to monitor changes. We can’t go by how we feel when we are trying to manage meds or medication changes. Create a checklist that you can follow day by day to track changes in your child’s mood or behavior or download our medication effect chart for ADHD, Depression and Anxiety, or Aggression to help you know how things are changing. This can be a big help when deciding to continue or stop a medication or when you need to alter the dose. 
  • Do I have a plan in place to gain skills along with medication? Medication for ADHD, autism, or depression/anxiety should be ONE part of your treatment package, not the only thing you try. Medication can be absolutely necessary to get your child’s biology in a place where they are ready to learn, but they still need guidance to learn new coping skills to help them to maintain positive mental health and growth. Look for counseling, behavioral therapy, or play therapy to enhance your child’s learning opportunities in addition to their medication therapy. 

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Five important questions to ask yourself before starting meds for kids.

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