Fearing ADHD Meds and a Hair Catastrophe

By Catherine Pearlman

April 14, 2018 4 min read

Dear Family Coach: My daughter has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She showed the signs for several years. However, recently, she has had much more trouble in school, and even with her friends. Her doctor recommended she try medication to help control some of her behavior, but we are really against it. There are side effects, and we don't want her to be dependent on drugs for the rest of her life. What do you think about it? — Concerned Parents

Dear Concerned: What if your daughter didn't have ADHD but instead was born with a congenital heart condition that required her to be on medication for the rest of her life? Would you consider withholding the drugs? I highly doubt it. Yet when it comes to mental health conditions, people often consider medical management a non-necessity. While there are other treatments, studies show that medication, especially when combined with other therapies, is highly effective in treating ADHD.

There are often side effects to drug therapy of any kind. It is also true that your daughter may experience some of them. But there are serious side effects of not trying the medication. Kids with untreated ADHD risk consequences of impulsivity and poor judgment. These consequences include drug and alcohol use and abuse, pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease from unprotected sex, and car accidents resulting from drinking or texting while driving. These problems don't disappear after adolescence. Instead, they often grow. I recommend finding a very good psychiatrist and psychologist to help you manage your daughter's treatment.

Dear Family Coach: Last night, I had to work late, so my teen daughter was home alone. When I saw her at breakfast today, she had cut, bleached and died her hair. It is now orange and green (her school colors) and completely misshapen. I am livid. She knew that if she had asked me or I was home, I would never have allowed this. How should I handle it now? — Fuming Single Dad

Dear Fuming: Well, that must have come as quite an unpleasant surprise. Chances are your assessment is 100 percent accurate. She purposely did this while you were out. Your daughter knew that you would be adamantly against her desire for orange and green hair (not that I blame you), and she was right. You are. If she had asked you and you'd said no, then she would have had to make the choice to go against you. If she just didn't bother to ask, then she isn't actively disobeying you.

There is little benefit to berating or fighting about the hair at this point. It will only do more harm than good. In the scheme of potential teen mishaps, this one is fairly benign. Explain to your daughter that you understand why she might have chosen to do this while you weren't home, but encourage her to talk to you in advance next time. Let her know that you may not agree with her choices but you will try to have an open mind and give her more freedom. Don't mention the hair again. If she absolutely loves it, you will only hurt her self-esteem. If she hates it, she will feel more comfortable coming to you for help to change it if you don't give her the "I told you so" lecture.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of "Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction." To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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