Photography by: Dominick Guillemot
4. Minimize medications Recent reports suggest children are the leading growth demographic for the pharmaceutical industry, with 1 in 4 young people taking prescription drugs for conditions including ADHD, type II diabetes and depression. Yet ADHD medications have been found to have many potential side effects in children, including sleep problems, mood swings and gastrointestinal issues, and antidepressant use in children has been linked to a small but increased risk of suicidal thinking. Even over-the-counter medications like those used to treat colds and coughs have led to adverse events, including overdoses and infant deaths. Of course medications may be necessary and even lifesaving for some, but if your child is suffering from an ailment—whether mental, physical or behavioral—drugs may not always be the best option. “For behavior problems, rule out potential issues such as food allergies or sensitivities or vision problems before turning to medication,” suggests Wedge. “It may be that a child who isn’t doing his class work doesn’t have ADHD, but simply needs eyeglasses.” In many cases, psychotherapy can be as effective—if not more so—than medication, Wedge adds. “For physical ailments that result from stress and not from a real physical illness, family therapy, guided imagery and meditation have helped many children get over problems like stomachaches and headaches,” she notes. And don’t underestimate the power of natural remedies for many common illnesses.