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Parenting a Bipolar Child: What You Should Know

No one is born knowing how to parent a bipolar child. On HealthyPlace, we have information to help you learn about raising a bipolar child. Read this.Parenting a bipolar child can be very challenging. Part of the reason is because most parents don’t know the symptoms of bipolar disorder in children before their child is diagnosed. However, learning the facts about the illness can be extremely valuable in terms of helping a child with bipolar disorder. Read on for what you need to know when you’re raising a bipolar child.

Parenting a Child with Bipolar – What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of bipolar disorder in children do vary from child to child. That said, the main aspects are that of depressive moods and of manic or hypomanic moods.

A depressed mood is a very low mood, typically characterized by sadness. Living with a bipolar child you might also notice your child:

  • Losing interest in previous enjoyed activities
  • Feeling worthless of guilty
  • Complaining about pain such as headaches and stomach pains
  • Having recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

A manic mood is a highly elevated mood wherein the symptoms can be life-threatening. A hypomanic mood has the same symptoms but it less severe.

When parenting a bipolar child, you might notice your child:

  • Being in an overly silly or happy mood that is different from his or her normal mood when having fun
  • Having an extremely short temper which is unusual for him or her
  • Sleeping little but not being tired
  • Taking risky action in usual ways; seeking pleasurable activities regardless of consequences

Any of these symptoms are normal for a child some of the time, what differentiates a mental illness is their severity and continuance.

See here for more symptoms of childhood bipolar disorder.

How Is Raising a Bipolar Child Different Than Dealing with a Bipolar Adult?

Bipolar disorder that starts in childhood is known as early-onset bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, those with early-onset bipolar disorder often have a more severe course of illness and spend more time sick than their adult-onset counterparts. When raising a bipolar child, you may also notice that he or she has more frequent mood switches or more mixed moods (moods containing both depressive and manic/hypomanic symptoms) than an adult.

When parenting a bipolar child, it’s also critical to know that those with early-onset bipolar disorder are at a particularly high risk of attempting suicide.

Any signs of suicidality should be taken very seriously and reported to a healthcare professional.

Other Illnesses You Might Have to Deal with When Parenting a Bipolar Child

While some children will only develop bipolar disorder, a large percentage of children with bipolar disorder also develop comorbid conditions (other conditions simultaneously). Common comorbid conditions you may need to help a bipolar child with include:

Treatment When Parenting a Bipolar Child

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but treatments are available. Medication and therapy are the two types of treatment that are most common for children with bipolar disorder and they are often used together for the best results. You should know that a child's bipolar medication may become less effective over time and need changing. Also, an important therapy to consider is family therapy due to the major impact childhood bipolar disorder has on the whole family.

Click here for more on the treatment of childhood bipolar disorder.

Getting Help for Raising a Bipolar Child

Living with a bipolar child can be extremely difficult. You absolutely need to reach out for help for the child’s sake as well as yours. If you don’t know where to start, ask your family doctor.

See here for more on how to get support when raising a bipolar child.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2017, November 8). Parenting a Bipolar Child: What You Should Know, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, May 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-children/parenting-a-bipolar-child-what-you-should-know

Last Updated: June 1, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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