Pill swallowing: parenting during life lesson challenges

I have noticed something about this parenting gig that is becoming more pronounced over the years:

Every milestone a kid accomplishes is a new experience for us parents as well.

It’s been almost 13 years I’ve been a mom, so it’s not like I’m a novice or anything.

But sometimes, mastering something new is time-consuming, effort-taking and tiring. Watching a kid learn something new, especially if the kid is challenged with something they should, or must, learn to do for themselves, can add a whole other dimension to parenting.

It takes a lot of mental brain power to be positive and supportive. We want to help them, guide them, and support them even when the latest challenge appears especially difficult.

Children don’t always approach new things with a positive attitude. But even if they do and they show a willingness try, there might be hurdles for the child to overcome. This can be hard for the parent to watch at times.

It’s during some of those times, when my plate is already full to the brink, that I find ‘opting out‘ might be easier (for me). Why go through the added stress of helping a child learn something that, theoretically, he or she could learn at a later date when life isn’t already so complicated?

Unfortunately, life does not get less complicated. So it may feel like a cop-out to say to the kid “don’t worry, we can try this another time, lets take the easy route today”.

So much for being a role model.

All this was going through my mind the other day when the older kid was diagnosed with the same illness as the younger one (not surprising). So when the doctor prescribed medicine and suggested pills instead of a suspension, I knew the next parenting adventure might be upon us.

I did not know that there are some kids who cannot swallow pills.

Apparently this is not unusual, or so the internet tells me. I tried to remember back to my own childhood. Did I ever have trouble swallowing pills? I do remember a disgusting pink liquid and a syringe that my mom used to spray into our mouths, but that was likely because the taste was bad, not because there was a pill option…

Back in those days, the doctors told parents to give the children ‘half of an adult pill’. They simply cut the pill in half with a knife and gave it to the kid to swallow.

They don’t do that nowadays anymore. Today’s medication dispensing is based on the child’s weight and age. And there are many options, from liquids to caplets to capsules to chew-able tablets…

Anyway, long story short, neither kid has ever been prescribed an antibiotic before this week, so when the doctor asked the older one if he felt ready to learn how to swallow pills, he said okay.

He may have hesitated a bit, but he said yes.

At the drugstore, the pharmacist talked to my almost teen boy directly and together they agreed he would try capsules, the smaller ones. He’ll have to take two, instead of one big one, and my son agreed.

Well it was a hurdle. He has to do this three times a day, so that’s six pills in one day, and the first try was incredibly stressful for him. He simply could not swallow them.

Here was my silent reaction:

I should just go back and get him the suspension like his sister has.

It was hard on me after a long day (and week) to have to watch him go through the anxiety and stress. Why are we putting ourselves through this?

But then I thought maybe I wasn’t being fair to him. He deserves a chance to learn with a calm, supportive parent helping him through.

He was such a good sport despite the obvious difficulties. Eventually, after a few failed attempts, I invited him to brainstorm a better method with me. There must be a way for him to learn how to do this…

I went to google. I looked at some headlines, and found interesting answers. For one, not all medications should be broken apart. This particular med is a time release in a capsule designed to dissolve in the intestine, so swallowing just the powder inside would not have the desired effect on the infection.

What about mixing the capsule with yogurt? I thought.

He tried that, it didn’t work.

Then I stumbled on a mental health YouTube video where a lovely lady, Dr. Bonnie Kaplan, designed a training method to help children, even young children, swallow pills.

My child was willing to watch the video and practice with a plate full of candies and a large cup of water.

I was so proud of him. It was not easy, because he failed more often than not, and when it came to taking his actual pills, he still had a lot of trouble.

“Let’s repeat this three times, until after breakfast tomorrow morning”, I suggested. “If it really doesn’t work, and you want to switch to the suspension, we’ll go back to the pharmacist then.”

He said he’s willing to practice.

I’m so proud of him.

By next morning, it only took him three gulps instead of a whole cup to swallow the first pill. He found a method that failed less often, and he’s sticking with it.

Did I mention how proud I was? He’s seeing this challenge through even though I gave him the offer to opt out.

By lunch time the next day, he figured it out. 😊

The younger one in the meantime is eyeing the plate of candies and said she’s ready, too, to try pills.

“Next time”, I promised. She wasn’t even given the option to try the pills and is bravely sucking back her suspension in her syringe.

Let’s hope that the next time is far off into the future. What I don’t need is kids on the couch for days on end… 🙂

But in the meantime, we can count this parenting milestone as a work-in-progress-almost-success-story.

And I’m so proud of that kid of mine!

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13 thoughts on “Pill swallowing: parenting during life lesson challenges

  1. Well done to all for getting through it! Funnily enough I had this problem for the first time last month. Son needed paracetamol to bring down temp and all we had was tablets. What a nightmare! It’s something I certainly hadn’t anticipated – it wasn’t in any of my baby books! But then again I read all about it when they were babies and am now too exhausted to read up on them now they are tweens. This was very useful advice and well done to your eldest for Sticking at it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. I didn’t realize it was so prevalent…did you? No one talks about it. For the record, I had his permission to blog about this experience…I try to spin it from my perspective, but he was on board.

      Good luck! Who knew…no one mentions these things in the baby books!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We used the mini m&m’s with ice cream to teach pill swallowing when my younger one had to take daily allergy medication. The liquid was so expensive compared to the pill format. I was very happy that he mastered it so quickly (he was 8). My older one decided to master pill swallowing just because she liked what she got to practice with ice cream and mini m&m’s. The only chewable we keep around now is Benadryl as I find it works better for the hives from chlorine reactions.

    It is an important life skill.

    Liked by 1 person

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