A bipolar parent of a bipolar child has special challenges but also special gifts. You know what your child is experiencing in a way that no one else can understand. At the same time, being a bipolar parent may make it exceedingly difficult for you at times to cope with the stress of raising a bipolar child. Below are some tips and information to help a parent with bipolar disorder.
Unfortunately, mental Illness continues to be misunderstood and to be stigmatized. If you are an adult who had an early and unrecognized onset, you may have a strained relationship with your own parents. If your parents did not understand your bipolar disorder you may have been treated like a bad child and punished and shamed for most of your life. You may have acted out as an adolescent and become involved in drug and alcohol use. If at all possible, it is important to educate the grandparents of your child about their mental illness. Get your family involved in your child’s therapy and educate them about your child’s bipolar disorder.
If you don’t have a good natural support system you have to create one! If your relationship with your family is too strained, seek out other support systems. Find neighbors teachers, church members, and coworkers who understand mental illness and are supportive of you. Find a bipolar support group and network with members you feel understand your situation.
In the mental health field respite is a service that is used to help parents when they need a break from them children. Respite can work miracles for you if you are a bipolar parent. The relationship between a parent and bipolar child can fall into a negative pattern and exacerbate mood fluctuations. A break can work wonders. Respite does not have to be viewed in a punitive way; in fact your child should think it is fun. Obviously the challenge is to find another adult competent enough to care for your bipolar child, but it will be well worth the trouble.
Manage Your Illness
It goes without saying that you must be stable on your medications and actively managing your illness. Many a bipolar parent are relentless in seeking help and advocating for their child but do not take care of themselves.
Energy and Emotions
A bipolar child is especially attuned and sensitive to the emotions and feelings of others. Many families will come to me and admit that they are yelling a lot in their house, and that there is a lot of anger tension and stress. This is toxic for a bipolar child. If this kind of negative energy is part of your household, you must work to decrease these behaviors and tensions. This will destabilize your child and will destabilize you.
A Note About Fathers
Frequently, I will have a mom of a bipolar child confide in me that she believes her husband is on the bipolar spectrum. This happens so often that I am convinced that many families with bipolar children have a parent who is an undiagnosed bipolar. If you are in this situation you must get help for yourself and attempt to get help for your spouse. Children learn from watching their parents. A bipolar parent who is not seeking help is not sending a positive message to their bipolar child.