Being a parent to any child is a difficult responsibility any way you look at it; however, supporting a child with bipolar disorder is even more difficult.  This child has needs that other children do not have.

 

Following are ten tips to supporting a child with bipolar disorder:

 

1.      Explain bipolar disorder to them

They already know that something is "different" about them – they just need to know what it is.  Unless you explain specifically what it is (in terms that they can understand), they will feel as if they are "not normal" or "bad," rather than having a disorder that is not their fault.

 

2.      Make sure they take their bipolar medications

This is crucial to your child's stability.  Without their medication, they will continue to go through mood swings and exhibit uncontrollable behavior.  If they manifest their bipolar symptoms in school or around their friends, this can lead to stigma that they shouldn't have to deal with at their young age.  Taking their medication will help them to remain stable.

 

3.      Take them to all scheduled appointments

It is very important that your child see their doctor, psychiatrist, and therapist regularly so that they can get better.  Their doctor will help them physically, just as he would if they did not have bipolar disorder.  The psychiatrist will prescribe and follow their medications, and their therapist will help them deal with the issues surrounding their bipolar disorder.

 

4.      Set boundaries (and stick to them)

Your child needs to know the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.  You need to teach them that there are boundaries (lines) that they cannot cross, and that there will be consequences to their actions if they do cross these boundaries.  Then you need to stick to those boundaries.

 

5.      Discipline them for poor behavior

You would not ignore your other children if they behaved poorly, and your child with bipolar disorder is no different.  Discipline them for poor behavior.  If you don't, they will think that they can get away with anything.  Worse yet, they may feel as if you don't care about them, or else you would put limits on them for their poor behavior.  Discipline is necessary to raise a well-behaved child, whether they have bipolar disorder or not.

 

6.      Reward their good behavior

You don't have to spoil your child to control their behavior, either.  Simply reward them for good behavior, just as you discipline them for poor behavior.  This could be as simple as a gold star on a chart or as extravagant as building up to a vacation at Disneyland (after a great deal of good behavior!).

7.      Don't treat them any different than your other children

If you have other children, don't treat your child with bipolar disorder any different, or else you will have another problem on your hands – jealousy.  Along with the normal problems that raising a special needs child brings, you will also need to deal with problems from your other children, who might resent your child with bipolar disorder.  Treating them all the same will help to keep peace in the family.

 

8.      Give them responsibilities

Chores are normal for every child to have.  Just make sure that they are age-appropriate.  In addition, if they are old enough, they can have the responsibility (under your supervision, of course) of being responsible for taking their medication.  They can also do other things to help around the house.  It is important for them to feel as "normal" as possible, to take the focus off their bipolar disorder.

 

9.      Talk to school officials

You may not have to do this but, if necessary in your child's case, talk to school officials about your child's bipolar disorder.  If they need special accommodations, for instance, you may need to advocate for your child.  If they need to take their bipolar medication during school hours, this medication will need to be given by the school nurse.

 

10.  Let your child be a child

Don't let your child's bipolar disorder interfere with them just being a child.  Enjoy every moment of their childhood with them.  Take many pictures to preserve the memories you share together as a family.  Make a scrapbook of things they make.  Let your child be the child they are.