We asked our friend Stacie Lampkin, Pediatric Pharmacist and Health Advocate, when can kids be responsible for taking meds on their own? Here's what she had to say!
When is the right time for kids to start being responsible for taking their own medications?
By Stacie Lampkin, PharmD, BCPPS, BCPA, CA
As teenagers start to transition into adult world, they should be responsible for their medications. This includes knowing about their medications and remembering to take them.
Early adolescence is typically when children can start to take responsibility for their own medication regimen. For some children this might be 9 years old and others it might be 16 years old.
Even if your child has the capacity to do so, they may lack the knowledge and motivation.
There needs to be learning and transition steps along the way before you expect your child to be self-sufficient with their medications. Think of all the steps required to give or take a medication.
First, you must remember to take the medication.
Then, you have to know how to take the medication.
- For liquid medications, kids need to know how to measure a medication.
- For inhalers, children need to know the proper technique.
- For injections, they must be comfortable with injecting themselves.
After a medication is given, there may be clean-up needed and the medication needs to be properly put away. All these little things add up and it can be overwhelming.
Don’t expect your child to suddenly take responsibility for their medications.
Instead, as your child develops, think about ways to give your child more independence. Make sure it feels right for them and your family.
As young as 3-years old kids should be included in their care. From a medication standpoint this might be as simple as having your child put a sticker on a chart that is used to keep track of when medications have been given. If you are using tooktake labels, this might be having your child take off the sticker.
Elementary aged kids might be asked to help remind you that they need their medication and even get the medication out.
Middle school aged children might be asked to help measure the medication and give it to themselves, but with supervision.
Ideally by early adolescence they are comfortable and confident in taking over their daily medications.
Most importantly don’t forget that a child’s motivation may change over time. While you don’t want to be a nag, it’s important to find a way you can communicate to ensure they are still taking their medications and doing it correctly. Don’t try to be sneaky. Let them know that you will occasionally check their medication and it’s okay if they forget sometimes. Tooktake labels would be a great way to help them remember if they took a dose and for you to do a quick check if they are taking it.
Lastly, sometimes taking medications gets frustrating. Make sure you allow your child a safe space to ask questions and even complain about it.
Stacie Lampkin is a pediatric pharmacist and associate professor at D’Youville School of Pharmacy with over 10 years of experience. She is the founder and CEO of KidocateRx which focuses on creating helpful information about kids’ medicines. She is passionate about improving how people get information and talk about kids’ medicine. Follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stacielampkin/