Parenting a Bipolar Child Requires a Special Philosophy

Parenting a bipolar child requires special skills. Most of the notions we have about good parenting don’t apply to parenting a child with bipolar disorder. This part of my website provides information for parents who have children with bipolar disorder.

On these pages are some tips I’ve compiled from my experience and training working with bipolar children. On this page is a specific parenting philosophy that will be helpful for you regardless of your child’s age.

Looking for help with anger and rage? Click here for some information.

Currently, my favorite approach parenting a bipolar child is modeled after the RAINBOW program. This is a program developed by Mani Pavuluri out of the pediatric mood disorders clinic at UIC. RAINBOW is an acronym for tips for parenting a bipolar child. I like to think of RAINBOW as a philosophy for parenting a bipolar child. I encourage parents to post this on their refrigerator to assist them in remembering what the basic parenting philosophy needs to be.

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R

Routine

Parenting bipolar children requires you to always pay attention to the importance of routine. Meals, activates and bedtimes should occur at approximately the same time every day. This helps children know what to expect and helps regulate their minds and bodies. Obviously, sometimes this is difficult to accomplish, parents need to just do the to the best they can.

A

Affect (Emotional) Regulation

Essentially this means every day children parents need to monitor and predict their child’s mood. Hopefully parents can also teach their child how to learn to do this for his or herself. When a parent knows their child is excited or agitated, they can focus on balancing that with a calm tone of voice and approach to the situation. When a child become agitated, it is crucial that the parent stay calm.

I

“ I Can Do It”

Children need to feel they have the opportunity to be successful. Parenting a child how is bipolar requires that a parent convey to their child that they have faith that together they will get control of this disorder. Parents need to overdo positive reinforcement. Children need to feel motivated and positive about their ability to solve problems and handle difficult situations. Children need to understand that they may feel less able to handle difficult situations when they are depressed, but that is part of their mood disorder.

N

“No Negative Thoughts”

When parenting a bipolar child it is important for parents not to dwell on incidents after they have happened. Instead the focus is on reconnecting with their child. Process your feelings with them about an incident and allow them to process feelings with you. Focus on positive thinking and facing a new day.

B

“Be a Good Friend”

Essentially this means it is very important to foster peer relationships for your children and to help them learn the skills necessary for building and maintaining friendships. Bipolar disorder parenting should emphasize this priority.

O

"Oh , How can We Solve This?"

Parents need to have a positive optimistic attitude that conveys to a child that there is a solution. Problem solving should always occur during calm phases, children are unable to solve problems when they are raging or otherwise in an agitated state. This step in the parenting philosophy can often best be implemented through pep talks or role plays.

W

"Ways to get Support"

Children need to be reminded that they are loved and cared for by many people. A parent can help them to understand who cares for them and who they can go to support for in the different settings they may be in.

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