Ask the Experts

Medicate Our Child? When One Wants It and the Other Doesn’t

“My ex-husband refuses to believe our 12-year-old son has ADHD, even though he has been diagnosed with it. As a result, he doesn’t want him taking medication. My son is struggling with schoolwork and behavior, and I know he’d benefit from treatment. What should I do?”

Two parents disagreeing over their child's ADHD medication
Two parents disagreeing over their child's ADHD medication

Sadly, your problem is not unique.

First, try to educate your ex-husband (maybe you’ve already tried this). Ask the physician who diagnosed your son whether he’d be willing to meet with his father to explain the diagnosis and the necessary treatment.

You might also pass along to your ex-husband any books or helpful articles you’ve read. Share these printables with a reluctant family member.

If all this fails, you might try to have your ex-husband share in the anxiety and stress that you feel.

What do I mean? You’re probably the one who gets the calls from the principal and goes to the school conferences, and your ex hears about the situation only when you contact him to complain.

If this is the case, ask the school to contact both parents when your son has difficulty in school due to hyperactivity, inattention, or another ADHD symptom-or when it’s parent-teacher conference time.

After your ex-husband has received a few calls, get in touch with him. Don’t start off by saying your son needs medication. You might ask him, “What are we going to do to help him? He is getting into trouble [or he is not learning]….”

If these approaches fall short, you may have to seek legal advice. If you’ve arranged to make medical decisions jointly, an attorney might be able to advise you as to how you can have the final word in this area.

I wish you the best of luck.

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