Explain how medicine helps kids get well. Young children don't always understand how medicine works. You could explain it by simply saying, "This medicine will help you feel better so you can go back to the playground." You could also mention what the medicine is accomplishing: "You didn't wake up at all last night. That's because the medicine took your pain away."
Make the medication taste better, if your doctor approves. Sometimes keeping liquid medications cold makes them more palatable. And if your doctor allows, you can also put medicine in juice or add flavorings to it. Pediatric nurse practitioner Joan Lokar of Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago says, "Ask your doctor and pharmacist if the medication will taste bad, and if it's safe to add a flavoring. You can also inquire if it's safe to mix a liquid medicine with juice or food. But check with your doctor or nurse practitioner to make sure, before you do." Orange juice is often used to conceal bad-tasting medicine.
Give medications at the same time and place. It helps to create a designated spot in your house for giving medicine and to create a routine. To stay on schedule, put a checklist on the refrigerator or your child's door. With every dose of medication, have your child make a check or put a sticker on the list.
Offer choices whenever you can. Taking medicine is non-negotiable, but other things are. Even the simplest choices give the child a needed sense of control over the situation and over his body. Offer two simple choices, such as, "Do you want the medicine before you get dressed or after?" or, "Would you like apple, orange or grape juice with your medicine?"
Avoid physical struggles. "If you start holding a child down to give him medicine," notes social worker Mary Mathews, "you may have to do it again and again. If you find you are physically forcing a child to take his medicine on a regular basis, this may be a sign that you should talk with your doctor, nurse or social worker for professional advice."
Explain the consequences. If a child refuses to take medicine, explain that he is making a choice that has consequences. "You could say, 'I see you're choosing to stay in the house and not go outside and play until you take this medicine.' " advises Mathews. "If you're trying to get out the door you might say, 'I see you're choosing to have me give you the medicine, instead of taking it yourself.' "
If your child still resists, give him an "out." Before you take away a privilege, try giving your child an "out" or suggest taking a short break. This allows him to save face and regroup, physically and emotionally. "Perhaps you just take a moment and give your child a hug, or get a drink of water and briefly break the cycle," recommends Mathews. "But make sure that a five-minute break is only five minutes long."
Let another adult take over. For kids who are truly resistant, parents might divide the responsibility of who gives the medicine. This gives one parent a necessary break and helps the child realize that both parents are capable of handling this.