Are you trying to decide if you should give your child a break from ADHD medication over the summer? It can be a tough decision. Many parents struggle to know what to do. There is no right or wrong answer. But I hope this post can help come to a decision.
The reasons parents may want to give their child a break from stimulant medication over the summer are varied. We all ultimately want to do what’s best for our child, but sometimes it’s hard to know.
ADDitude Magazine surveyed 200 parents and found that 48% planned on giving their child a break from medication over the summer. You can find the full article here. There are different reasons parents choose a medication vacation over summer break.
Reasons for Choosing a Medication Vacation:
- Appetite Suppression: Stimulant medications suppress the appetite. If a child is underweight or just doesn’t eat much, parents may choose summer break to go off the medication in hopes that their child will gain a few pounds.
- ADHD is Mild and symptoms are mainly focus and concentration. These are most noticeable during school. Some children may not experience social & behavioral issues related to ADHD.
- Side Effects: Some students don’t like how ADHD medication makes them “feel.” Teenagers especially may say medication changes who they are.
- Assessment of Symptoms: Some parents simply want to see if there has been any improvement in their child’s symptoms.
Is a medication vacation the right thing for you and your child?
I’ve gathered some advice from top clinicians in the field of ADHD to help you decide. You can find the links to all my sources at the end of this post.
Dr. Larry Silver
Dr. Silver suggest that parents honestly ask themselves this question:
“Will hyperactivity, distractibility or impulsivity interfere with your child’s success in summer camp or other vacation activities?”
~ Dr. Larry Silver
He recommends parents look at every aspect of summer. From summer camp, playing with neighborhood friends, family vacations, even long car rides. Will your child have positive/successful experiences this summer without his/her medication? Or will they constantly be told to “stop doing that,” “sit still,” “behave,” “pay attention and keep quiet?” Dr. Silver gives a concise way to make the decision.
“If your child’s off-medication behavior makes it hard for him to be around others and participate in certain activities, it’s better that he stays on medication throughout the year.”
~ Dr. Larry Silver
Dr. Edward Hallowell
Dr. Hallowell’s advice is like Dr. Silver’s in that he also asks parents to consider their child’s summer activities.
“If your child has trouble staying on task, listening to directions, relating to peers and controlling his body movement, medication may help social and learning time be more positive and productive.”
~ Dr. Ned Hallowell
He also suggests parent’s to consider the following:
- Will your child be supervised by adults who may not be familiar with ADHD? A teacher has all year to get to know your child and accommodations are often given at school that may not be in place at camps or other activities.
- If your family is going on vacation, would your child and family time be enhanced? Or would your child’s ADHD symptoms impact family time in a negative way?
- Will your summer days be relaxed and less structured? Remember that children with ADHD thrive on structure, predictability, and routines. If your summer days will be less structured, you may want to consider staying on medication.
I love this question Dr. Hallowell asks parents:
“What would be best for my child? What would make this vacation the most positive and enriching time for my child?”
~ Dr. Edward Hallowell
If you are considering whether or not to give your child a medication break this summer, I hope the information and questions asked by two outstanding clinicians will help you in your decision. Ultimately it’s up to you. You know your child and your family better than anyone.
One final thought before I close – always consult your child’s doctor before making any changes in their medication plan!
Do you give your child a medication vacation over the summer or do you continue medication? I’d love to hear from you! Have a great summer and enjoy your vacation!