How to Know When It’s Time to Think About Psychiatric Medications for Your Kids

Hey friends! Recently, I got a question from one of my Twitter followers about psychiatric medications for children. Since this is a pretty common question among moms of children with mental illness, I thought others might want to read my answer as well.

I’ve edited the question to protect the writer’s privacy.

Photo by Pietro Jeng on

Question: Hi Nicole. I follow you on Twitter and wanted to ask, how did you know it was time to start your kids on medication? I understand if it is too personal to share but just interested in your experience.

I don’t mind at all! Thanks for reaching out!

I took my kids for an evaluation with a psychiatrist as soon as their mental health symptoms started interfering with every day life. In my experience, psychiatrists play it pretty safe when it comes to prescribing psychiatric medications to children, so I don’t think you need to worry much about taking your child too soon or somehow getting a prescription for too much medication. Of course, you should ask lots of questions and be sure you’re comfortable with the effects and side effects, and ask about any long term effects, interactions, etc. But I also think it’s unlikely that a psychiatrist will prescribe something that will harm your child.

I will say, though, that once my child started displaying explosive rage symptoms, that was a lot harder for me to come to grips with. Here’s why: Up until that point, he’d been diagnosed with anxiety and ADHD. Those are pretty common, easily treatable disorders, and they might even resolve before he grows up.

Now, the doctors and therapists are talking about DMDD. That’s like the junior version of bipolar disorder. It doesn’t ALWAYS lead to bipolar, but it can. And that totally freaked me out. I’ve worked with bipolar people, and their lives were very difficult. I just didn’t want to think about that for my child.

Also, the medications that treat DMDD are stronger and more serious. They have more side effects. I was scared. His psychiatrist told me that the standard treatment for DMDD is Abilify, which causes heavy weight gain, sleep disturbance, migraines, incontinence, and a whole lot more. I thought, “forget that.”

But then my son got into a new program and we met with a new psychiatrist there. She told me that she wouldn’t recommend Abilify because of the side effects, but there was another mood stabilizer called Depakote whose side effects are much rarer and less severe. So, we decided to try it. Thank God we did. His behavior got a million times better.

The things to be aware of when starting medication: many of them take a few weeks to start showing results, so be patient; it may take some trial and error for the prescribing doc to get it right; and it’s important to also see a therapist at the same time.

As long as you’re going into it fully informed, I really think medications can be life savers.

Best of luck to you.

Do you have a question about parenting children with mental illnesses? I’d be happy to help if I can! Get in touch!

Published by Nicole Roder

Writer Nicole Roder lives in Bowie, Maryland with her husband, Matt, their children, Emma, Sophia, Raymond, and Gianni. And Lucy–their fiercely terrifying, 20-pound Boston Terrier who protects their home from some ubiquitous danger only she can see. When she’s not busy composing her next great work of fiction, she’s wiping bottoms, dancing in her kitchen, singing in her minivan, building lego castles, wrapping feather boas around her neck, and driving all over God’s creation. AKA–mothering her children.

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