Talking with Children About Their Medications

Mar 06, 2017

“But dreams come through stone walls, light up dark rooms, or darken light ones, and their persons make their exits and their entrances as they please, and laugh at locksmiths . . . “

from Carmilla
by Sheridan Le Fanu

Talking with Children About Their Medications

TISA Description of the Problem: When picking up a child or adolescent who has been taking medications, it is important to quickly come to an understanding of how the child views the meds. Kay McAuliffe, LCSW takes a practical and down to earth approach of uncovering these belief systems in a direct yet sensitive fashion.

Tip: I have come to find it very important to find out what a medication means to the child or adolescent taking it. Sometimes the answers are surprising and problematic such as, “I take them because I’m a bad kid.” I find the following three questions can be useful at helping the younger client to honestly share his or her perspectives on the prescribed medications:

1) “Why do you think you are taking this drug?”

2) “How is it supposed to help you?”

3) “Do you want to be taking it?”

TISA Follow-up: I like these three questions by Kay, for their directness and sense of respect (e.g. “I want to know what you think about these meds not only what your parents and teachers think.”) can significantly enhance engagement. Some other nice questions in this vein, depending upon the age of the child, are: “Do you know if this medicine is supposed to ever cause side-effects?” “Is it causing any side-effects for you?” “Do you know how long you will be taking this medication?” Questions such as these and the ones suggested by Kay will not only directly uncover the patient’s feelings and knowledge about the meds through the content of the answers, but may often uncover the patient’s feelings about the treatment team as evidenced by sarcasm or a sharp, “How am I supposed to know?”

Tip provided by:

Kay McAuliffe, LCSW
Mental Health Care, Inc.
Tampa, Florida