Think Twice Before You Give Your Toddler ADHD Medication!
I once worked with a preschool boy who was positively full of energy. He had a lot to say, loved to move, and rarely sat perfectly still. He also had trouble making friends, but that didn't have much to do with his energy level. He ended up in my office to work on social skills, but it was clear from the start that his mom had big concerns about his non-stop energy.
There were three other kids in the family, and this little boy was the youngest. Week after week, the mom described the others as calm, quiet, and less active. She was tired and rightfully so.
One day, she came to me with a new plan. A friend, another preschool parent, told her that even preschoolers benefit from medication. It might help him sit still in school, maybe even make more friends.
With exhaustion written all over her face, she waited patiently for my response. If she felt defeated by my response, she didn't say it. In fact, she seemed to expect me to say no. We talked about child development. We talked about exercise. We talked about sleep, diet, and limits. And we talked about her own feelings on the matter. She needed time to be alone—time to rejuvenate and find her center. Time to feel whole again.
At least 10,000 American toddlers are being medicated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). That's 10,000 2- to 3-year-olds taking medication outside established pediatric guidelines. The safety and effectiveness of stimulant medications have yet to be properly examined for this age group.
While very active, and even hyperactive, toddlers can be difficult to parent, stimulant medication and a diagnosis of ADHD should not be the first line of defense. In fact, it shouldn't even be the last.
Behavioral modification, parental support and education, and a heavy focus on the basics (sleep, diet, and exercise) can go a long way toward improving behavior in the home and parent-child interactions without the unnecessary and often very damaging side effects of medication (like sleep disturbance, appetite loss, and jittery behavior, to name a few).
If the absence of clear-cut proof of the effectiveness of stimulant medication for toddlers isn't enough to convince you, below are a few reasons to put the brakes on medicating your toddler.