How to Handle ADHD Medications: For Parents and Children Ages 6-10
Your doctor feels that you have ADHD. Saying “ADHD” doesn’t take as long as saying the whole name, though: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
If you’ve got ADHD, it might be hard to sit still in class and pay attention to the teacher. Or you might do some silly things without thinking about what might happen next.
Some people think that having ADHD means you’re lazy. Or they might say that you’re not very smart, or that you don’t know how to act the right way—even if you try. But your doctor and your parents know better than that.
Why am I taking this pill? I don’t feel sick!
You’re right! Having ADHD isn’t the same thing as being sick, like when you have a cold. Having ADHD just means that your mind doesn’t think the same way as everyone else’s. It’s not something that you can “catch” from your friends. And you don’t have it because you did anything wrong, either.
What happens when you have ADHD?
Here are some of the good things: Maybe you can answer your teacher’s questions faster than other kids. Or maybe you’re able to think about a lot of different things, all at once. But there are some things that might not be very much fun:
- It might be hard for you to sit still and listen to your teacher or other grownups.
- You might want to move around or talk more than other kids.
- You might lose or forget things that you need for the day.
- You might have a hard time sitting in your seat at dinner, finishing your chores, or doing your homework.
Your medicine won’t make your ADHD go away. But it will make it easier to do the things that you need to do every day.
How to know if your pills are working
How will you know if your ADHD pills are working the way they’re supposed to?
- You might get along better with your friends.
- You might pay attention more in class.
- It might not take as long to do your chores or homework because you won’t be thinking about other things.
And sometimes when ADHD pills are working well, other problems might not happen as much:
- You might not lose things as much anymore.
- Your parents and other grownups might not get as upset with you as they used to.
Some kids like to use a calendar to keep track of their good days and their bad days. You could mark the good days (where things went right) with a checkmark or a star, and put an X on the days that didn’t feel so good. Would this work for you?
How to talk with your doctor
When you go to see the doctor, a grownup usually goes with you: It could be your mom or dad, or some other person in your family. It’s easy to let the grownups do all the talking – but guess what? This is a time when everyone really wants to hear from you, too.
They’ll want to know:
- Does your head or stomach hurt or feel strange after you take your medicine?
- Are you paying attention more at school?
- Is it easier to sit still when you have to?
- How are your friends treating you? How about the other kids in your class? Your teachers?
And you can ask the doctor anything you want to, too – about the pills you’re taking, or about how you’re feeling every day. It doesn’t matter whether you’re happy, sad, or mad: The doctor is there to help you feel better.
And don’t forget – you can always talk to your parents, too!
Are you shy about talking to the doctor or asking questions when you go to an appointment? What would make it easier for you to talk to the doctor? Ask your parents to help you think of questions you can ask your doctor.
When you first start taking your medicine, it might make you feel different. It might seem like you’re able to sit still for longer than you used to; or maybe you won’t feel like you have to run around as much.
But if you don’t feel any different after a few days, don’t worry. Your doctor might have to change how much medicine you’re supposed to take. Or you might need to try a different type of pill instead.
Some medicine can make you feel different in ways that aren’t so good, though. That’s called having side effects. Once your body gets used to taking the medicine, a lot of these side effects should go away.
Here are some of the side effects you might have from taking your ADHD medicine:
- There might be times when you don’t feel hungry.
- It might take a while to fall asleep at night.
- There might be times when you’re in a bad mood.
- Your head might hurt.
If you feel sick, then talk to your parents, or the school nurse, or any other grownup you feel close to. Your parents can call the doctor any time they need to, to talk about how you’re feeling.
Which grownups can you talk to if you think your medicine might be making you feel sick?
Should you tell your friends about having ADHD?
It’s okay to tell people about your ADHD – but you don’t have to tell anyone if you don’t want to – even your good friends. Why is that?
- Because your body is private and it belongs to you. You have the right to keep information about it to yourself.
- Some kids who hear about your ADHD – and don’t understand what it’s like – may want to tease you, or give you a hard time.
If a friend asks why you’re taking medicine, you could say that you have to take medicine every day to stay healthy. Then you could start talking about something else.
What about telling teachers or other grownups?
The only people who need to know about your ADHD medicine are grownups who take care of you when your parents aren’t around. If you have to take medicine at school, then the school nurse will need to know, too.
Your parents will help decide if your teachers need to know.
Who knows that you have ADHD? Are there some people you’d like to tell? Why or why not?
Your ADHD medicine
Your doctor has chosen which pills you need to take for your ADHD.
- These pills have been picked just for you.
- It’s never safe for anyone else to swallow one of your pills. It might make that person really sick.
- And never take someone else’s pills, either, even if that person has ADHD just like you. That’s because:
- There are different types of ADHD pills. The medicine that someone else is taking might not be the same kind that you take.
- Other medicine might have a dose that’s too strong for you, and it could make you feel very sick. Remember: A pill that’s safe for one person might really hurt someone else. You don’t want that to happen.
Always tell your parents or another grownup if someone wants to take your medicine. And tell them, too, if a friend wants you to take his medicine instead.
Be safe. Only use medicine that your doctor or your parents give to you.
What if someone wants to try your medicine?
You already know it’s not safe to let other people use your medicine. But some kids may still ask to try it anyway. What should you do?
Be smart, right from the start:
- Say no! Give the same answer every time.
- Remember – this is your medicine. It’s not safe for anyone else to take it.
Has anyone ever asked to try your medicine? What would you say or do if that happened?
Keeping ADHD pills locked up
Your parents need to keep your ADHD medicine locked up when you aren’t using it. The pills aren’t locked away because your parents don’t trust you, though: It’s because this medicine is very strong, and it’s against the law for other people to have it when a doctor hasn’t given it to them.
- Your bottle of ADHD pills should never be left out in the open where someone could pick it up by mistake and use it.
- If you see the bottle of medicine sitting out on a counter, bring it to your parents right away so it can be locked up.
Why is your medicine locked up? What should you do if a friend asks you to show where your parents keep your medicine?
How to stay legal
There’s a special name for ADHD medicine – it’s called a Schedule II controlled substance. That means you have to be very careful about keeping your pills away from other people.
- You can never carry these pills all by themselves in your pocket, or in a bag. Your medicine always has to be carried in the bottle that comes from the drug store.
- It’s against the law to let someone else have your medicine.
- If you need to take your ADHD medicine at school, your parents will have to bring the medicine for you to the school nurse’s office. Most schools won’t let kids carry this medicine themselves into the building or on the bus.
Stay safe – and legal:
- Find out your school’s rules about using ADHD medicine.
- Don’t let other people have or use your medicine.
What are your school’s rules about taking medicine?