I know that some of you parents have children with Bipolar Disorder and are concerned about what you will face when those children become teenagers. Others of you already have teenagers who have Bipolar Disorder. Some of you are parents who, yourselves, have Bipolar Disorder, and are raising children/teenagers who don’t have the disorder, but you may still face some of the issues I will be discussing in this article. Whichever the case, I wanted to write this to encourage you, as I am a parent of a teenager who has Bipolar Disorder, and also have the disorder myself.

My son, Tyler, is 16 years old, and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at 12 years old, and has been on medication and therapy since. I also have Bipolar Disorder myself, and have raised two other sons, Kerry (now 24)—who does not have Bipolar, and CJ (now 22)—who does not have Bipolar but does have ADHD. So I can pretty much talk about this from all the different angles.

The main thing I have noticed in comparing the raising of each of my sons is that what I’ve been going through raising Tyler, the one with BP, is that there doesn’t seem to be much difference—meaning that as long as Tyler takes his medication and sees his therapist, he seems to be just as 'normal' as any other 16-year-old. 'Normal' being gets in as many scrapes, has tried to manipulate me, talked back at times, stayed out late, etc. In other words, he hasn’t done anything that his two non-Bipolar brothers didn’t do before him. What I’m trying to say is that, basically, what I found out is that my fears of what I thought I would face with raising a teenager with Bipolar were unfounded.

I might even venture to say this: Raising a teenager who has Bipolar Disorder is no different than raising any other teenager (who doesn’t have Bipolar Disorder). Assuming, of course, that he takes his medication religiously and sees his therapist regularly.

One other point I need to make, in speaking to you parents, whether you have Bipolar or not (but especially if you do have Bipolar), is that you need to take care of yourselves. This is crucial, to any parent! If you don’t take care of yourself first, how can you take care of any of your children? Especially if you have a special needs child? Take care of yourself first, and you will be your best for your child. Then you will have the best chance, especially if your child has Bipolar Disorder, of making it through those challenging adolescent years.

Published March 16, 2007, online at: http://www.cchr.org/index.cfm/9027/19686