Convincing a Five Year Old to take Medications

Medications vs Jay 

It’s a simple truth: kids hate pills. My lovely daughter was no exception. 

Leukemia treatment involves a lot of medications. Most of the medications were liquid since she was only five, but because it didn’t taste like sunshine and rainbows, it was a fight to get her to take them.

Our local pharmacy had some flavored syrup that we tried. All we did was fill the syringe with the medication (usually 2-5ml) and then fill the rest of it with the syrup. That worked for a while, but eventually she fought that too.

Tricks for Pills

One of her medications was a pill. Trying to get her to take that was another battle. 

It didn’t taste good. 

We tried countless different ways to convince her to take it. We would bury it in a spoonful of yogurt, have her swallow it with juice or soda, wrap it in a starburst, and any other number of things. 

Each trick worked for a few times, but then she would go back to refusing to take it and we would have to figure something else out.

Letting Jay Have a Choice

One of the biggest breakthroughs with taking pills for Jay was when we let her choose how she would take it. 

Jay had basically no control of her life with regards to her treatments. Allowing her to choose how to take her pills gave her a little bit of control. 

We would set out a few options like soda or yogurt, and she would pick which one she wanted.  The battles over pills lessened.

Fortunately, she grew used to taking pills and we figured out a good routine. The fight continued, however, with the liquid doses. I think she hated those most because the flavor would linger longer in her mouth.

Moving Away from Liquid Medications

I was able to convince the doctors to do away with the liquid stuff and stick with pills. 

Jay had so many to take that we had to get a 3x a day weekly pill planner so we could keep track of everything. 

The doses didn’t stay the same either. Sometimes one pill had a higher dose every other day or there was one pill that was only taken once a week. 

As Jay grew, the doses also had to be adjusted.

The chemo pills made her feel lousy. The steroid pills made her look puffy, feel cranky, and she was hungry all the time; exactly all the right reasons to keep giving her medications.

The Take Away

The biggest advice I have with giving little kids pills is to be patient, but firm. 

Jay has a remarkable skill to procrastinate. She will say things like “hang on” “wait, mommy” and then she will try to distract me by asking questions about random things. 

This is ok to a point, but she would still need to take her medications. 

Sometimes I would set a timer for a minute or two and tell her that if she didn’t take her pills in that time, then I would have to put on the mean mommy hat and make it happen. 

Time limits worked. Soda worked. 

Jay would always take pills better for me than she would her dad. 

On days that I had to work, sometimes her dad would bring her to my work so I could convince her to take her meds. 

It was inconvenient all around, but we had to do what we could to get those pills down.


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