Medications Frequently Asked Questions

If my child sees a psychiatrist does this mean my child has to be on medication?

No, the psychiatrist might recommend medication or therapy for your child, as well as other strategies, but the decision is always up to you. The psychiatrist appreciates being informed if a parent/guardian is uncomfortable with medications.

Will the Department of Children and Families (DCF) be called if I refuse medications for my child?

No, rather, the psychiatrist will ask questions to understand your opinions about medication. DCF only gets involved when there is concern about your child’s safety (e.g. abuse or neglect).

If my child is on medication, who will know about it?

Your child’s records will not be released or discussed without your written permission. The medications will not be automatically released to the school or other programs (e.g. college) unless you give permission, or if the psychiatrist is worried about your child’s safety.

How do I get medications if I am in the process of getting a new psychiatrist for my child?

If you are waiting for a new psychiatrist, contact your child’s pediatrician to provide enough medication until your child is able to see the psychiatrist.

What happens if I decide to stop my child’s medication?

You should contact your doctor before stopping any medication. If you think your child is having a serious side effect to a medication, you might need to take your child to the nearest emergency room.

Will medications change my child’s personality?

Medications treat symptoms or behaviors that cause suffering. They will not change your child’s personality.

Will the medication change my child’s behavior right away?

Some medications work quickly while others can take several weeks before the full effect happens. Sometimes it can take time to get to the right dose for your child. Many psychiatrists “start low and go slow” with medication doses, to make sure your child does not have side effects.

How do I talk to my child about taking medication?

It can be helpful to tell your child that they did not do anything wrong. Doctors recommend medications to help children be the best they can be. You might also say, “I can see that you’ve been having a hard time. This medication will not change who you are, but it could help you feel better and be able to do certain things better, such as focusing in school.”

How do I talk to my child about seeing a psychiatrist?

It is helpful when you explain to your child why he/she is seeing the psychiatrist; for example, something along the lines of, “I know you’ve been unhappy about having trouble at school, so we want to see someone to help us with that.”

For more information about specific feelings your child might be experiencing, you can visit The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry “Facts for Families” website.