Ways to Help Your Child Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder

Little girl

Bipolar disorder is a severe mood disorder that sometimes occurs in young children and teenagers.

Children and teens with this disorder may experience severe shifts in mood, activity levels, and energy, ranging from emotional highs (mania episodes) to emotional downs (depression).

As a parent, seeing bipolar-like symptoms in your kid can be scary; however, there are several ways to help your child diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

With the right treatment and support, children with bipolar disorder are often able to manage their symptoms and grow into happy and fulfilled adults.

Thus, support for bipolar disorder is essential in helping your child cope with their diagnosis.

Also, you can create a healthy routine for your child's daily activities.

Children with bipolar disorder do well with structure as it helps them manage stress, build healthy habits, and feel a sense of safety.

Similarly, attentiveness to your child's mood changes is important to their treatment and recovery.

Monitor their symptoms and record daily bipolar episodes and mood swings.

Doing this helps you identify a pattern in their behavior, note their response to medications, and recognize oncoming episodes.

Read on to learn five ways to help your child diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Therapists in Colorado

Heather Comensky, LPC

Heather Comensky, LPC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Alex Wiley, LPC

Alex Wiley, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Emily Murphy, LPC

Emily Murphy, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Sarah Munk, LPC

Sarah Munk, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Andreea Felea, LPCC

Andreea Felea, LPCC

Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Bonna Machlan, Ph.D., LPC, CAS

Bonna Machlan, Ph.D., LPC, CAS

Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Vanessa Dewitt, LCSW

Vanessa Dewitt, LCSW

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Denise Itule, LPCC

Denise Itule, LPCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Amber Chambless, LPC

Amber Chambless, LPC

Colorado
(720) 449-4121

Support Your Child

An effective way to help your child diagnosed with bipolar disorder is to provide support.

Young children during a mania episode might feel overly happy, become impatient, be destructive or defiant, have difficulty sleeping, and have frequent tantrums.

Similarly, children may experience depression symptoms such as intense sadness, irritability, low energy, headaches, or stomach aches.

Both symptoms of mania and depression episodes can be overwhelming and difficult for children to manage, and they will need all the support they can get.

You can support your bipolar child by helping them understand what bipolar disorder is.

Use appropriate words suitable for your child's age and developmental level to define mania and depression.

Children should know that bipolar disorder isn't something to blame themself for or be ashamed of.

Also, you can encourage your child to talk to you.

Make it a family routine to share both positive and negative feelings.

Doing this will make your child comfortable opening up to you about their struggles.



Teach Coping Skills

Bipolar disorder comes with severe symptoms that even adults sometimes struggle to manage.

Teaching healthy coping strategies will help your child diagnosed with bipolar disorder learn to manage their condition and give them chance to grow into a happy, fulfilled, and responsible adult.

One such coping skill your bipolar child will benefit from is how to manage stress.

Stress is a significant factor that can amplify mood swings and worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Stress management techniques you can teach your bipolar child include breathing exercises, journaling, medication, and. positive self-talk.

Breathing exercises, for one, are a valuable coping skill that promotes calmness, increases feelings of comfort, relaxation, and pleasantness, and reduces symptoms of anger, depression, and anxiety.

Likewise, journaling can help younger children and teens express, understand, and process their moods.

You can also teach your child other self-expressive or creative outlets, such as listening to music, painting, singing, drawing, or playing an instrument. 

Be Attentive to Mood Changes

As a parent, an effective way you can help your child with bipolar disorder is to pay attention to their mood swings and any major changes they may experience.

Older children with bipolar disorder are more vulnerable to substance abuse and other risky and impulsive behaviors.

Thus, monitoring child's behavior and taking immediate action when you notice changes is essential.

Also, you can keep a mood log or journal to help you document your child's mania and depressive episodes symptoms.

Doing this can help you recognize a pattern in your child's mood swings, identify possible triggers, recognize early signs of a bipolar episode, and determine the best treatment plan.

Similarly, it is common for a child to react to bipolar disorder medication.

Medications used to treat bipolar depression episodes, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics, may cause akathisia, drowsiness, heavy sweating, difficulty breathing, or vomiting.

It's thus important to monitor your child's mood changes as well as physical symptoms to detect the side effects of bipolar medications early. 

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Maintain a Routine 

As with adults, maintaining a regular daily routine for children is particularly helpful in stabilizing their moods, managing stress, and finding a balance.

Thus, as a parent, you can help your child diagnosed with bipolar disorder by creating a daily schedule and routine they can follow.

Start with a good sleep/wake routine.

Getting adequate sleep is essential for recovery from bipolar disorder.

A poor sleep pattern could worsen symptoms of bipolar and make it difficult to manage mood swings.

Also, eating a balanced diet filled with nutrient-dense foods can provide the needed nutrients to remain in good physical condition while dealing with bipolar disorder.

Children can benefit from nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, lean meats, fresh fruits, low-fat dairy, legumes, etc. You can also snack time in their routine once or twice daily.

Similarly, you can add family time to your routine.

Come together as a family a few days a week to enjoy activities, including game night, movie night, or family prayer time.

Providing a structure in your family builds an emotionally safe environment for your bipolar child. 

Consider Treatment Options

Although there is no exact cure for bipolar disorder, there are several treatment options that can help your child diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The use of medications and therapy are popular treatment options among bipolar patients.

You can consult a healthcare provider to guide you on the available treatment options and the best plan for bipolar disorder, specifically for children.

As with adults, medications to manage bipolar episodes, such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics, are often prescribed.

Talk to your child about medications they are to use - the importance and possible side effects- and encourage them to ask questions.

In addition, there are various therapy options for children with bipolar disorder, including psychoeducation, family-focused therapy, chronotherapy, psychotherapy, and interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT).

Conclusion

Several causative factors, such as trauma, genetics, changes in the brain, etc., can lead to bipolar disorder in children.

Although each person –child or adult– experiences bipolar in unique ways, the consequences of this illness are often more difficult for children to manage.

Thus, as a parent, it is important to learn ways to help your child diagnosed with bipolar disorder to give them a chance to live a healthy and fulfilled life as an adult.

Those ways include considering treatment options, maintaining a routine, paying attention to mood changes, teaching coping skills, and providing your child with support for bipolar disorder.

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April 15th, 2024

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