As a clinician, it feels like there's a diagnosis for any and every behavior a child exhibits. As a parent, how do you decide whether or not medication is a viable option for your child's presenting concerns? Believe it or not, the route you choose will have lasting effects on your relationship with your child. There are a couple of things you might want to consider before jumping into a morning medication regimen.
This is a question that comes up time and time again when parents come to me stating they've noticed behavior changes in their children or that a teacher has hinted at their child potentially having ADHD or another behavioral concern that's impacting their education. Of course, for many parents it's mind boggling to come to grips with the fact that their child might not have control over their inattentive or hyperactive behaviors, but there are other options to consider before committing to medicating your child. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly referred to as ADHD, gets thrown around frequently when it's been observed that a child requires an excessive amount of prompts when spoken to or has a tendency to be forgetful and distracted. The first thing that should be ruled out by your child's pediatrician is any potential medical component that might be impeding your child's ability to perform to their fullest potential.
When your child has been medically cleared, the next thing that needs to happen is for you to assess the environment in which the identified behaviors are occurring (i.e., school, home, babysitter). No one knows your child the way you do, so as a parent you have to determine whether or not your child's behavior is being influenced by any external factors that you can decrease and/or eliminate. Ideally, gaining some insight on effective parenting techniques that provide structure and consistency in your child's daily routine will help with many childhood behavior problems.
If the behaviors persist after consistent changes have been made to your child's environment, then perhaps a meeting with a therapist, psychologist or child psychiatrist should be considered. To maintain open communication in the relationship, have an age appropriate conversation with your child so that he/she understands that all decisions made are in their best interest. All in all, being fully informed is the most effective way to ensure that your child will receive the appropriate care.