Provoked by Family... How can we help him cope with this??

by Lori

I have a Bipolar teenager who is 15 and was diagnosed only 3 years ago. We have been struggling with teaching him to take responsibility for his actions/words etc. However, we are also learning that yelling and screaming does NO good, in fact my child shuts down when he believes he is being yelled at or when he believes he is right. Recently, my husband and I were out for the evening and my child came home about 25 minutes late. His Uncle & Grandmother were at the house and came off angry asking where he was at. I figured a fairly normal response since he was late and it was dark and they had no idea where he was at. He responded by stating he lost track of time. We are working on that with him, when he becomes involved with video games etc, he loses track of time. He got into a verbal argument with his Uncle, my son became defensive and then after being yelled at he shut down. He ignored his Uncle and balled up his fists, something he does when he is angry & frustrated, he has never hit anyone. His Uncle took this as a threat and bent down to further agitate him and ask him to "come on boy. Come on" I assume trying to get my son to hit him. My son could not take anymore and bolted out the door and ran off. My son is angry and upset with his uncle. He states that he feels like he was disrespected and pushed into the situation that caused him to cuss and run. I would like to know what we can do as parents to help my son not feel as though he has to bolt out the door or yell profanity when he feels as though he has been pushed to his limit. He will be in highschool next year and I know that as soon as the other kids

find out that he will either cry when provoked or get mad and run away that they will try to get him to do this. I want to be able to help him face the ignorance of family and people in the world with his dignity in tact. I want him to learn how to cope with situations and come out as the better person. How can I help him accomplish this when he is already having to tackle this with family, who should be on his side?

Thank you

Hi Lori

This is an excellent question, a great question. I don't think there is an answer to how you can get him to react in a better way. When children who are bipolar feel threatened, their whole physiology responds as if they are under attack. They get in a fight,m flight, freeze mode just like they would if they were in real danger.

In this scenario, the best option was for your son to run, as I can't imagine fighting would have had a good outcome.

Frankly that behavior is outrageous from his family member, and educating family members about his illness and what you will tolerate in relation to how he is treated is about the only option I can think of. My thought is his uncle has his own issue he needs to work through! I am sure you are in agreement.

I think I would work to do the best I can to set up a safety plan for your son and allow him to know that you have his back and are protecting him when family members get aggressive. Educating them and setting limits is also important.

It may take some time before he understands how to navigate high school. I would try to ensure support is in place by meeting with the staff of the school prior to his arriving and educating them about this dynamic and his illness.

Good luck

Kristen McClure

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