Unlocking ADHD Contributor Sandy Pace looks at the hot button topic of ADHD medication to find a constructive way for parents to broach the topic with their children.
If you’re like most parents, one of the scariest decisions to make is whether or not to put your ADHDer on medication.
I’m not saying medication is perfect because, yes, prescription drugs do have a dark side and adverse effects, but those things are extremely rare. In addition, many people don’t consider the difference between taking something for a medical condition like ADHD and abusing a substance.
For this reason, I’d like to briefly talk about my experience of being a child whose parents refused to treat my ADHD properly, in combination with my lived experiences as a person diagnosed with ADHD, by answering the following question.
How can parents have healthy conversations about ADHD medication? Here are some suggestions:
It’s natural to be hesitant or nervous about medication.
With so much negativity surrounding ADHD medications, I understand why many parents are nervous about having their child take ADHD medication. But nervous parents still must educate themselves to see how the positives of medication far outweigh the negatives.
A, Healthline article referred to a study done in 2003 which was published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The study describes the situation that when ADHD goes unmedicated, individuals with ADHD are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop substance abuse issues. The reason is that when ADHD goes untreated or is not treated correctly, it causes issues such as adverse childhood experiences, addiction, and other psychological problems throughout that person’s life.
I know this because I wasn’t allowed to take medication for ADHD, which left me wondering what was wrong with me for years. During that time, I believed I was just lazy and stupid, and other untrue things people with ADHD are led to believe because of the stigma attached to this misunderstood condition.
My best advice for nervous parents is to write down their beliefs and hesitations about medication and not go online for their main information source. After you write these down, ask your child’s physician, therapist or pharmacist if it’s alright if they talk to you about those concerns.
Discuss ways they think might be helpful to empower you to gain a healthier understanding of medication. Accepting that as a parent, it’s natural to be nervous about such a hot topic. It is also critical not to let our stigmatized beliefs dictate our decision-making because it makes us feel powerless over those beliefs when we do this.
It’s more important to remind yourself that while you may not know everything about treating ADHD, you are willing to learn. It is equally important to show yourself some compassion by remembering that no one knows everything, and it takes a courageous person to accomplish this step, and a step your child will thank you for taking.
Lastly, here’s an amazing video by Jessica McCabe called I’m Glad My Mom Drugged Me. If you’re a nervous parent, I highly recommend watching it because it’s insightful and shows why it’s essential for nervous parents to see this from their child’s point of view.
How you speak to others and yourself about your beliefs about ADHD and medication is important.
How you speak about medication and other aspects of your child’s diagnosis plays a big role in how they view themselves and how they look after their mental health. If you talk about medication, their challenges, and their diagnosis in a way that invalidates them, it can make them feel as if they’re weak or a burden.
The same goes for your online language because it’ll indirectly show your child that you think their challenges are irrelevant and other untrue things. For this reason, it’s critical to speak in a supportive and empathetic way and to do your best to see them from their perspective.
Here are a few things that parents can do to create healthy conversations about medication.
- Instead of talking about medication like it’s a performance enhancer and other incorrect things, talk about it for what it is. A tool to be used in combination with other interventions like therapy, coping skills for dealing with emotional regulation, and impulse control to effectively treat complex conditions like ADHD and other mental illnesses.
- Remember not to talk about medication being made up by “big pharma” because medication saves lives.
- If you say something that your ADHDer considers hurtful such as stigmatized beliefs or pill shaming, own it and apologize. This simple act shows you care about how they think and feel, and as a person whose parents didn’t do this, I can tell you that this is hurtful and can lead to adverse childhood experiences.
I want parents to remember that having healthy conversations about ADHD isn’t just about medication. It’s also about things like emotional vulnerabilities, triggers, challenges, and anything related to your child’s diagnosis.
For this reason, nervous parents must understand their erroneous beliefs around those things because what you do and say impacts more than you realize. In addition, most people don’t realize a child with ADHD hears more than 20,000 abusive comments before 12. For this reason, it’s critical for parents not only to empower their ADHDer but to gain an understanding of their responsibility, even if it means stepping outside their comfort zone.
Another article I wrote about my childhood and how my parents did not take my ADHD seriously is also a great tool to use in combination with the above tips.
*Sandy Pace is a Canadian author and advocate, and an aspiring peer support specialist in Western Canada. With a background in psychology and human services, Sandy is certified in Brain Story, a course on understanding adverse childhood experiences. He is passionate about using his lived experiences as an ADHDer and former substance abuser as tools for spreading awareness and empowering others in their mental health journey. Sandy is also the author of ADHD 101 Parents Edition and has written for Thought Catalog, TotallyADD, and ADDitude Magazine.
[If you liked this story and found it helpful, please SHARE it. For more stories about ADHD in Singapore and other articles, please click here.]