Not much is easy about parenting a child with ADHD. And getting him to take his meds can be hardest of all.
Health Parenting

Treating ADHD With Medication Is Hard, But It Doesn’t Have To Be Scary

The only thing easy about raising a child with ADHD is a parent’s unwavering commitment to help their kid succeed. Everything else is hard.

Living with a child who’s forgetful, disorganized, and overly sensitive is difficult.

Supporting a child who’s easily distracted at school is challenging.

Advocating for academic accommodations, tutors, and therapies is taxing.

Hearing a child say, “Why is everything so hard for me?” is brutal.

Acknowledging that sensory processing differences, anxiety, and depression often accompany an ADHD diagnosis is daunting.

Choosing to treat symptoms with medication is grueling.

Grappling with the pros and cons of different drugs and wrestling with which negative side effects to accept for the sake of positive results is painstaking.

And you just might discover the toughest hurdle still lies ahead. Kids are as afraid to take ADHD medication as parents are to give it to them.

I’m not an expert. I’m a mom.

I’m a mom of a child who said, “Why is everything so hard for me?” and it. was. brutal. I’m a mom who lives with, supports, and advocates for a kid with attention issues and grapples and wrestles with what’s best for him every single day. I’m a mom who eventually decided to give medication a chance, and I’m a mom who was blindsided by the fear I saw in my child’s eyes when I handed him the first dose.

We’ve come a long way since then. I say we because I’m not alone on this wild ride any more than my son is. We’ve persevered because I developed an honest and age-appropriate dialogue with him about health and healthy habits, and I fostered a strong and secure partnership in which he knows his feelings and opinions matter. Together, we conquered the fear. Here’s how we did it:

Destigmatize it. ADHD is a medical condition just like diabetes, Celiac disease, food allergies, and high blood pressure. Tell your child about a cousin who gets insulin injections, a friend who can’t eat gluten, a classmate who brings an EpiPen to school, and a grandparent who swallows a pill every morning for heart health.

Normalize it. Show your child the vitamins and medications you take regularly, talk about why they’re important – bone strength, thyroid balance, anxiety reduction, etc. – and take them in your child’s presence.

Reframe it. Taking medication is a burden, but it isn’t a punishment. It’s a benefit without which we would suffer. Medication lets us live a healthy and happy life.

Pair it. If swallowing a pill with juice, pouring the beads of a capsule into a cup of chocolate pudding, or sipping a few teaspoons of liquid medicine in front of an iPad gets the job done, do it. Provide as many positive associations as needed to develop a regular habit. 

Wrap it. Your child’s safety and well-being is vital. Promise to listen to concerns and answer questions, be open to change, and praise your child’s courage and trust. A hug does wonders, too.

Treating ADHD with medication is hard. Period. But it doesn’t have to be scary. The best way to navigate the journey is, simply put, together. Once you figure that out, the rest is easy.


About the Author

Jen Gregory is the writer behind the blog, The Runaway Mama. She wouldn’t want to be anywhere else except home raising her two boys, but like the little bunny in Margaret Wise Brown’s classic book, she sometimes wants to run away. Read more at The Runaway Mama, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.