A Difficult Decision: Medication and Your Child

Deciding to medicate your child can be a very difficult decision for parents. My toddler has recently been put on antibiotics to treat a respiratory infection. I trust my pediatrician and do not feel she would prescribe these without need, but I am still hesitant and do not like the idea of any medications for my baby.

Antibiotics is a very common prescription for children and I still struggle. Yet, I talk with parents on a regular basis who are facing the difficult decision of putting their child on one or more medications for behavioral and psychological reasons. As a parent, we want to trust the professionals involved in our child’s care, but medications can have lasting and unanticipated consequences. For one, every child is different, so you cannot be sure of the side effects until you try it. Once on the medication, the side effects may also be difficult to manage, such as changes in appetite and sleep patterns. So, how does a parent know what the right decision is for their child?

Here are a few key points I share with any parent dealing with this issue:

  • Consult the professionals involved, including your child’s pediatrician, psychiatrist, and psychologist/counselor. Ask questions about their diagnoses and the reasons for choosing the medications they chose.
  • Make an appointment with a Pediatric Psychiatrist. For medications affecting your child brain chemistry, I recommend seeing a doctor who specializes in disorders and medications affecting a child’s mental health. These include attention, antipsychotic, emotional disturbance, and behavior.
  • Do your research. Learn everything you can about the diagnoses given to your child and the medication(s) recommended. Some helpful websites are below.
  • Consider all treatment options– Counseling and behavioral intervention, diet and exercise changes, and social/environmental changes. Whether your child takes medications or not, these interventions can make significant changes to your child’s mental health. For example, stimulants may improve attention, but it cannot teach them behavioral skills to improve their study habits. Antipsychotics can stabilize emotions, but it cannot teach them anger management.
  • Commit to ongoing medication management. All children are unique in their symptons and body chemistry. Therefore, it is likely that you will need to visit the doctor regularly to adjust the medication. And once you have found just the right medication, frequency, and possibly combination of medications for your child, follow up appointments are key to making sure this works for your child over a period of time.

Whatever you decide to do, make the best decision you can, armed with information and support, and always know that you can make changes any time you observe your child needs something different.

For more information, I have found these websites helpful:

HealthyChildren.org on Psychiatric Medications

www.KidsHealth.org has Parent, Teen, and Child sites to search.


I would love to hear from some of our readers. Have you had to make a similar choice as a parent and what was the outcome? Or, are you in the middle of this difficult decision now?

Author: Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT

Kim is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, and Registered Play Therapist in Dallas, Texas.

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