5 Truths about Parenting A Child on Mental Health Medication

Mamas, on this subject we must stop the relentless back-biting and judgmental behavior and unite to encourage each other. If you parent a child with special needs, whatever those needs might be, we are fighting a battle behind the doors of our homes. Some of us may have children who scream and yell, throw things, are non-verbal, who curse at us, or who cannot dress themselves; whatever our individual war, it is war nonetheless. So, suit up and march on beside each other because choosing to medicate your child may be one of the most difficult and unforgiving parenting decisions you will ever make, so you’ll likely need backup, not judgement.

The daily grind of raising an extreme child, whether medicated or not is a rough journey. This is a glimpse at the road traveled by those of us who have chosen medication.

The Pharmacy Is Your Nemesis

If you have never had a child on the type of medication that requires you hand an actual paper prescription note to a pharmacist (yes this still exists), then you will never know the defeat that can come at the hands of your neighborhood pharmacy.

Because of the classification of medicine our son takes, his prescriptions cannot be refilled more than one day before they are empty. They can also not be filled at just any pharmacy if we are traveling. This means, since our families live hours away from us, that when my son visited his grandparents for a week last summer, we couldn’t fill his prescription early even knowing it would run out while he was there. It literally took over 6 hours of phone calls to multiple pharmacies and insurance companies before we found somewhere we could get his medication. Six. Hours.

The pharmacy will likely also be conveniently out of the medication or dosage that your child requires on the exact date that you need to refill it. This can sometimes take days–even weeks to special order. This translates to having to parent a child who suffers from Mach 5 Meltdowns and has almost no physical ability to focus or control his outbursts when he is unmedicated for an unknown amount of days. But we must follow pharmacy protocol and wait. So our child has to come down off of the medicine he has taken for months, suffer the effects of being unmedicated, as well as what his/her brain is already like without the assistance of the meds and then, when the days pass and the medicine is finally ready at the pharmacy, we start all over again.

Moms who parent children on behavior disorder medications seriously dread the pharmacy. I would honestly rather go to the eye doctor, the dentist, and the gynecologist ALL in the SAME day if it means I could just happily pick up my prescriptions without fail like the next diabetic or person who needs an antibiotic. It is maddening!

Haters Gon’ Hate

The school will judge you, your parents will judge you, your friends may even judge you, but at the end of the day, no one knows your child like you do. If your child struggles with behavior disorders, you may as well pull up your bootstraps and brace yourself because, sister, it’s gonna get messy.

Parenting any child is a rough and dirty job, not meant for just anyone. Raising a child whose brain tells them the logical response to not getting to watch 10 more minutes of Moana is to throw themselves in the floor in a fit of uncontrollable rage is next level parenting. We don’t have time to be bothered by the opinions of the mother behind us in the drop-off line at school any more than we do the thoughts of our own family…and trust me, they will be plentiful. We must be strong and remind ourselves that we know that our child uses this medication for the appropriate reasons and she is a better functioning person because of them, no matter how much Aunt Sally swears, “ADHD is just an excuse for poor parents to medicate their kids into zombies.”

Believe me, we wish Aunt Sallie was right, but she’s not. We have cried over this choice, prayed over it, researched it, and everything else you could think of before deciding to accept the prescription. But, again, you know your babies. If what they need is assistance to focus or something to calm anxieties beyond their body’s control, those are the choices we make as parents. Let other people reserve their opinions for their own children.

Medication Works For Those Who Need It

Unfortunately, Aunt Sally’s estimation of medicating children is true of some parents. It is because of this lack of parenting skill that those of us making the difficult decision to give our child medication for behavior disorders fall victim to the harsh criticism of others. However, as a former member of the “I would never medicate my child” club, I can attest to the fact that some people are just unaware of what our daily lives look like.

Before medication, our son (diagnosed ADHD, and others) literally never stopped. He could not do his school work, watch a TV show, or complete a simple task without constant redirection or consequences. He hit and kicked, spit on and punched my husband and I and dented our walls with things he would throw at us or down our stairs. He once tried to bust out our kitchen window with his shoe because he couldn’t get it tied but refused our help.

After trying every whole food, essential oil, natural approach before medication and watching them all fail, one by one, we agreed to try our son on the lowest dose of prescription meds. Since making this tearful decision, we have a different kid. He still has his moments, but he is able to participate in organized sports, be successful in school, and make playground friends–something he’d never accomplished before medication.

When The Meds Wear Off, So Can Your Sanity

We don’t want our son to lose his personality behind doses of medicine. We want him to run, climb, yell and laugh loudly. We want him to make messes and do crazy things because that is who he is–medication or not. But it should be noted that, while his medicine is a necessary assistant to him focusing during the day, before bed and in the morning are the times we dread the most as his parents.

Every morning, our son wakes up like a bullet shot out of a gun. Before the sun rises, he is bounding up the stairs toward our bedroom, convinced he is being completely silent. By 7:00am, we have likely endured refusal to help with his household responsibilities, yelling over simple tasks like getting dressed, and usually an all-out fit in the floor where one of us is given some glamorous parenting title like “Worst Mama Ever” or “Daddy Doo Doo Pants”. Be jealous.

All that said, once the medicine begins to do its job, our son becomes the best version of himself. He usually apologizes once he comes back to his body and realizes what he has done or said. He is able to calmly eat breakfast and get ready for his school day. Again, people outside of our circle have no clue what daily life is like without medication…even if that is only a few painful, agonizing hours. We had to ultimately make the best decision for the good of our family as a whole and the success for our son.

The Meds They Keep On Changin’

One of the most frustrating things that can happen when choosing to medicate your children is that many are very sensitive to medical ingredients and the dosages must constantly be adjusted. This means an ever present balance of upping one med one week and then observing for two weeks; decreasing this dose to offset one side effect only to incur another. Then we start all over.

The dance with doctors, specialists, therapists, and medication is a delicate one. Being faced with the decision to put your child on medication is one parents who have been through wouldn’t wish on anyone. The amount of things that are beyond your control is immeasurable. And the judgement is thick.

Navigating your way through the treacherous routes of parenting can seem impossible. This is a world where we need each other daily; sometimes minute by minute. Choosing to take medication can be tricky, even as adults. Raising our incredibly intelligent, creative, and sometimes absolutely unhinged kids can be both our prison and our passion. We don’t all have to agree on this topic of medication, but we should be able to encourage and lift each other up. The old adage “It takes a village” could not be more true. Find your tribe. Embrace your inner circle. Those are your people and you need them as much as they need you.

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The Many Faces of Meds: The Truth About Parenting A Child on ADHD Medication
The Many Faces of Meds: The Truth About Parenting A Child on ADHD Medication

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3 Replies to “5 Truths about Parenting A Child on Mental Health Medication”

  1. Well done on an excellent article. I have raised an ADD child who reacted badly to the meds, so we had to resort to the dietary route. That also resulted in much opposition and criticism. Said child is now a responsible adult who is going through the same issues with his eldest. All I can say is, “Hang in there! It DOES get better. You will survive, and perhaps even more amazingly, so with the child!” Sharing this on Facebook as it needs to be read.
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