Should my Child Take a Vacation from Medication?


Ah, the joyous sounds of summer: giggling, splashing pool water, crickets chirping, and the snoring of exhausted children. Unfortunately, we’ve also experienced: the bickering among siblings, meltdowns due to late night playing, and frustrating outbursts when schedules are unpredictable. So, how do we prevent the latter? Do we maintain medication rituals or take a temporary break during the summer? Having an ADHD child myself, I have had to make this decision more than once.

I think we need to consider the reasons why we would consider having our children abstain from medication. Here are a few:

1. We feel guilty that they take medication. Most of us have received unsolicited (and often unhelpful) advice that we shouldn’t have our children on medication. Well-meaning friends and family are not usually educated about ADHD and spectrum children, their needs, and possible treatments. It’s easy to feel guilty in this world of “green” and “whole foods.” Of course we’d rather not have our children on medications, but if the medication is HELPING, we need to do our best to ignore ignorant comments.

2. Our children are losing weight. A common side effect of stimulants is weight loss. Our family has dealt with this issue. We now give our child an Ensure every night before bed. We also allow him to eat snacks after dinner once the stimulant has worn off. If your doctor is concerned about weight loss, and your child is not growing, then under your doctor’s supervision, a consideration of going off medication is absolutely understandable and recommended. Otherwise, if you can maintain your child’s weight and growth, medication can be a lifesaver.

3. The medication doesn’t really help. There are certainly children, and adults alike, that cannot tolerate medication. Some people try every medication available, but to no avail. If the medication doesn’t work, then definitely don’t force the issue! When the medication helps, it is obvious in your child’s behavior, and the harmony in your family. If not, ditch it! (By the way, if you are frustrated with the medication, talk with your doctor. If your doctor isn’t helpful, maybe it’s time to find a new one.)

4. Your child is not in school, so why would they need the medication? The ADHD brain has an altered frontal cortex, which regulates such things as organization. The frontal cortex is slow and needs to be stimulated in order to function properly. Stimulants (and other medications like anti-depressants) can help children focus, remain, calm, stay socially interactive, and learn the ability to organize. They need these functions throughout the year, not just during school. You could consider lowering the medication, but your child still needs to be able to function and interact at home, summer camps, and with family and friends.

I have focused on stimulants, as they are commonly used for ADHD. Other medications like anti-depressants and mood stabilizers should NOT be altered without the supervision of your doctor. These medications were not intended to be temporarily decreased over the summer, and you need to be extremely careful in altering the dosage. Always consult your doctor before making any decision.

Whether you decide to have your child stay on their medication, or take a temporary break, YOU know what is best for your child. When judgmental people make comments, confidently state that you are happy with your choice and the success of your child is evidence that you’ve made the right decision. What can they say to that? (And frankly, why should we care what they think?)

Enjoy your summer, and stay true to your own child’s needs and your parental decisions. You are capable of knowing what brings the most happiness to your family.

Also Read : Lessons from Summer of 2012

Cassandra Nelson

Cassandra is a stay-at-home mom that lives in San Diego with her husband and children. In 2000, she received her Master's Degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling. Other than spending time with her family, she is passionate about protecting children and women. She recently became a Life Coach as her goal is to help people find a rewarding life focus and happiness.

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