Reasonable Expectations: How to best encourage self care and healthy behaviors??

by Susan


I am the mother of a bipolar 18 year old female. We are recently on our own after separating from my verbally abusive husband, who is an untreated bipolar. She also has a history of ADHD, epilepsy and self harm (cutting). My daughter wants to feel good and is seeing a counselor and psychiatrist, but has great difficulty keeping daytime hours and taking her medication as necessary. For many reasons, she is emotionally more like a 13 year old than an 18 year old, and it has been next to impossible for me to have a baseline of expectation for her self care.

I would like to know if it is reasonable of me to expect she keep daytime hours, keep food out of her room (big issues there), and take her medications as directed more often, and if so, how to best encourage these behaviors by means other than modeling positive behavior, praising good choices, and active listening (which on the whole do not appear to be terribly effective)? I would appreciate any input on the matter.

I do not know your daughter so it is difficult to answer the question of if it’s reasonable. I tell my teens that they have a reverse sleep wake cycle, and that they need to keep this in mind when they are applying for jobs

or scheduling school. My philosophy is that they function better if they are allowed to be on a more natural schedule for them. I encourage parents to make reasonable accommodations for that.

Keeping food out of her room? Again I do not know her. My suggestion would be to communicate to her that you would like for her to try to work on that, but that you know it’s difficult for her, and praise praise praise rather than criticize when frustrated. You may have to let it go. Keeping a clean food free room may be the least of your worries, or hers as she gets older. It’s also an issue common to teens that aren’t bipolar, and it doesn’t mean she will have this habit permanently.Communication is one of the most important pieces. Regardless of what the issues respectful no aggressive communication will be more appropriate and effective than any other method.

There are all sorts of tools to help kids with remembering medications. Pill boxes, alarms etc. I think you medication would be the most important issue out of the ones you mentioned. You should expect that she will work towards taking her medications and make every attempt to help her to get there. Medication non compliance could result in a hospitalization; therefore I would devote the most time to that!

Good luck



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Aug 26, 2010
Reasonable Expectations
by: Renee

After reading your story, I felt the need to add my two cents about expectations. Our son is 17, diagnosed w/bipolar, attention and anxiety issues. Our expectations change according to how his mind set is that day and we never criticize what he does attempt to do. We choose what is the most important thing for him and that is for him to be safe and the only assurance we have with that is medicine. I am in complete control of his medicines...non-negotiable! Everything else is negotiable, well except for the obvious, no knives, guns etc...!
Reasonable expectations come with stability and her time not yours. You can promote it, expect it, but let it go if it doesn't happen.
With help from her psychiatrist, her sleep cycle may be altered with a med adjustment, just a thought.
Food in the room, as long as it is not bringing in creepy crawlers, so what! Close her bedroom door. I have to admit, a couple days a week I extract the plates and glasses, collect the mold and harvest penicillin...ha ha
Lastly, don't be so hard on yourself! You are doing the best you can, spend time with people who can help lift your spirits and laugh. Laughing about situations is the best medicine for you!!
Best of luck to you,
One more thing you can join the support group on this website, there are a lot of parents in your same situation and they can advice or just listen and understand!

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