ADHD Medication: Are you Considering a Drug Holiday for your Child?

The concept of a “drug holiday” for ADHD children is a controversial one. It used to be a common recommendation during the summer months, but lately more and more ADHD professionals are realizing that taking away a child’s ADHD medication is like telling them that focus is only important at school.

If you think about it, your child needs to be able to focus when riding a bicycle down a busy street, spending time with other children at day camp and learning responsibilities at home.

That being said,  not every child needs ADHD medication, and not every child needs ADHD medication outside of school. 

Before making any decisions, assess where your child fits in this debate by considering the following questions:

1. Is my child more subdued when he/she is on ADHD medication?

Myth: My child will be more subdued on medication.

Fact: Your child should be able to focus better on tasks that require concentration, but they should continue to be as “spunky” as usual. His/her personality should not change in any negative way.

If your child has lost some of his/her “zip” since being on medication, it is important to discuss dosage with your doctor.

2. Are there any negative side effects from my child’s ADHD medication?

Myth: It is appropriate to stay on medication even though significant negative side effects have been observed.

Fact: It is not a reasonable compromise if your child is experiencing significant side effects due to medication. There are multiple options for ADHD medication; therefore, track any negative side effects and ask your doctor about another option.

3.  Is ADHD medication helping your child in more settings than just the academic one?

Myth: If my child isn’t at school than he/she doesn’t need help with focus.

Fact: It is important to track your child’s behaviour related to focus in many settings beyond the classroom. The social impacts of ADHD can be significant and a child’s ability to learn from and enjoy social interactions at home, with friends or at camp  can be greatly compromised without the support of medication.

4. Will it be a difficult transition to go back on ADHD medication after a summer off?

Myth: My child will agree to go back on medication after the summer and there will be no emotional impact of having this support taken away over the summer.

Fact: Some parents express that their children have gone through emotional struggles when beginning medication again in the school setting after taking a few months off.  Children may feel upset about needing to take the medication or, alternatively, go through feelings of loss as they realize missed opportunities over the summer.

5. Should I ask my child what he/she wants to do about ADHD medication over the summer?

Myth: It should be entirely my child’s choice as to whether or not to take medication.

Fact: Putting a child on medication is a medical and parental decision. Although it is vitally important to have your child be part of discussions with his/her care, it is important not to frame medication as a child’s choice. Children do not have the appropriate perspective in order to make this decision. They have wonderful input regarding how they feel and how their overall health is, but decisions about medication should fall on your doctor and on you, as parents.

6. How do I know if the medication is still working when my child is out of  school?

Myth: My child needs to be doing academic exercises for me to notice a change in focus.

Fact: Children who are on the proper dosage of the right medication should be focusing better in a variety of environments including organizing their materials, being aware in conversations, doing chores around the house, and even having positive social interactions with friends.

 If the medication is not giving negative side effects, and the child’s “spunk” is still present, it is important to consider multiple factors when deciding about medication over the summer. More and more children are reacting positively to a summer with optimal focus!

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