Tears rolled down my eight year old daughter’s cheeks barely able to choke out her words, “They don’t want to play with me.”
No, children at school did not exclude her. Nobody teased her. Her sisters upset her because they were not playing with her.
In actuality, her sisters cherish playtime with her, but they couldn’t play with her for long. Playtime often started joyfully. But in only a couple of minutes, something distracted them, and they darted off to do something else.
The fact is her sisters have ADHD, and the inability to focus on anything for more than a couple of minutes at a time negatively affects their quality of life and those around them.
We stood at a crossroads. Should we stay on the path of staying unmedicated or should we medicate to treat ADHD?
If you find yourself in a similar dilemma, consider these 6 tips before your make the important decision whether or not to medicate your child.
Those entrenched in the medication free camp preach more healthy or holistic approaches to treat or cure ADHD in children. I lean towards a more natural lifestyle. It can be a struggle to make treatment decisions when so many have a strong opinions on treating ADHD and other behavioral and emotional disorders without the use of medicine.
People point fingers at parents blaming them for their inability to control their child’s behavior.
If only you fed them better food…
If only you didn’t let your kid watch so much TV…
If only you sent your child to an exclusive private school or homeschooled…
If only you played with your kids more often…
If only you let your child have unlimited access to outdoor play…
If only you better disciplined your child…
If only you got your child into x,y, or z therapy…
If only you yelled less often…
If only you gave your child more responsibility…
If only you read this parenting book…
If only you were the perfect parent…
…Your child would be well and not need medication.
These views shame parents and children who struggle daily with behavioral disorders
1. Ignore the opinions of non professionals who don’t understand what raising your child is like.
I needed to consider the functioning of MY children not views of people who likely have little to no experience parenting children with significant behavioral and mental disorders.
The inability to sit still in a classroom is not the only symptom of ADHD. ADHD and mental illness make everyday daily life very difficult.
2. Evaluate how much your child’s daily functioning is impacted by his challenges.
Possible Functioning Difficulties for a Child with ADHD
- Getting dressed
- Focusing for more than a couple minutes at a time
- Adjusting to changes in routine
- Coping with minor disagreements
- Reacting in non aggressive manner
- Following directions
- Very high energy levels far exceeding peers
- Using the bathroom
- Maintaining friendships
- Refocusing attention once distracted
- Cleaning up toys
- Organizing school supplies
Normal activities other families take for granted can end up being very stressful. Activities like attending church, playdates, and grocery shopping require extreme levels of supervision for our children.
Eating is one particular daily activity that can be a challenge for my kids with ADHD. The lure of distractions keep them from ravishing even their favorite gooey, cheesy pizza.
Our cat meandering through the kitchen causes a child to leap out of her seat to pet his velvety fur. The constant thrum of one child’s non stop, screeching speech in favor of eating can cause the most patient of people an aching headache. The front door chime from the UPS delivery man elicits endless requests to open the smiling, brown, cardboard box. The utensils become percussion and artistic instruments beating an off beat tune and scraping our long suffering and battered kitchen table.
My kids unphased by the need to eat in favor of the distractions. The hour hand can rotate a full circle before the the dinner plate is cleared and tummies are full. Our family doesn’t always have an hour to eat one meal.
While this may sound like typical childhood behavior it is the intensity and frequency of these behaviors resulting from the inability to filter out and ignore regular distractions that make daily life functioning a big challenge.
3. Consult professionals like your pediatrician and a family therapist.
We utilized many resources to improve our children’s quality of life and help make them more successful despite their challenges. In addition, I researched best strategies given their particular behavioral struggles.
Medicine Free Tools to Help with ADHD
- Diet changes particularly elimination of artificial dyes
- Behavior Modification
- Limiting screen time
- Parenting books
- Lots of time for active play
- Healthy sleep habits
- Parenting bonding activities
- Sensory tools
Without a doubt some of these strategies help, but they were not enough. We spent thousands of dollars and poured an enormous investment of time and energy into our children, and they still struggled.
4. Give adequate time for strategy and lifestyle changes to improve your child’s functioning.
Time did not erase their challenges
We worked for three years to overcome these behavioral challenges, and we used countless medicine free interventions.
You do not have to wait 3 years before you make the choice to medicate. Some families take longer to decide and some shorter. Discuss this with your child’s doctor and/or therapist.
5. Consider your well being.
Their challenges surpassed ideal parenting.
Raising kids with special needs has not magically transformed me into Super Wonder Mom. I do a lot right, but I make mistakes.
I should not have to be a perfect mom to help my children. Internal pressure stressed me into feeling I had to be on point all the time. Neurotypical kids deal better with normal parenting because they are more resilient and flexible and better adjust to normal parental mistakes and environmental changes. Treating with medicine held the potential to ease my children’s struggles thus reducing my parenting exhaustion.
I was doing all I could, and it still wasn’t enough.
It became obvious I needed to try medicine to treat my children. My children have real brain differences that negatively affect their functioning.
The brain functions as one of the most vital organs in our bodies. It is a medical need like a child with diabetes needs insulin or a child with asthma needs an inhaler.
Medicine hasn’t transformed my kids into mindless robots. It hasn’t remedied everything but it has made an astonishing difference for two of my children.
For another child, there has been progress but this child continues to face trials. This will be an ongoing process, but we continue to help improve quality of life.
6. Don’t beat yourself up over your choice.
Medicine is not a badge of shame.
When I hear judgment regarding the choice to pharmaceutically treat children, I understand this comes from a place of ignorance. Fortunately, most families have neurotypical children, and they cannot grasp the struggles faced by families with special needs.
If your family has special needs and found success without medicine, I rejoice with you, but please understand that each child is unique and responds differently to interventions.
Medicine gives us hope.
Hope that we can enjoy time together in more positive ways. Hope that my children can learn more in school. Hope that my children will have more healthy relationships. Hope that they can engage more in activities with other children their own age. Hope that they will develop more confidence in their abilities. Hope that their differences won’t limit their goals and dreams.
I once stood in doubt of which path to take.
Continue the road of not medicating my children? A path with too much hardship, the kind that brought my children to tears daily.
Or take the path of unknowns?
Looking back at myself on the crossroads it seems obvious which path to take. I walked the path with the unknowns that comes from choosing to medicate because one of the unknowns is the possibility of giving my kids a chance to succeed more in living life. Giving them a chance to play, learn, and grow more.
I choose the path of medicating my children for ADHD.