How To Explain Bipolar Disorder To Your Children

explain disorder to a child

It may be difficult to broach sensitive subjects with your child, such as your own mental health.

You may be nervous about how the other person will react to or interpret the information you provide.

Therefore, many parents choose to avoid the topic for fear of overwhelming or worrying their children.

However, children notice things too, and if they notice unexplainable changes in someone they love, they will feel confused and scared.

Luckily, there are ways to explain to them and help them adjust to their new lives with the right kind of support for bipolar disorder.

When a family member falls ill, children often have numerous questions.

When kids don't get straight answers from adults, they often make up their own, which can be both wrong and frightening.

This is why it is important that you are honest with them and you take the time to explain the diagnosis to them.

Kids can internalize their parents' negative emotions and take them out on themselves.

When you explain bipolar disorder to your children, stress that it is not their fault and that they have no control over their parent's condition.

Also, as you explain bipolar disorder to your children, it is important that you encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns.

Create an environment that allows openness for everyone.

Here are more details on tips on how to explain bipolar disorder to your children.

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Amanda Rehfeld, LPCC

I see you, I hear you, and I validate you.

Aurora, Colorado

(720) 449-4121

Be Honest

Parents with a mental illness frequently question whether it's best to honest about their diagnosis with their kids.

On the one hand, you should be open and forthright.

On the other hand, you may believe that keeping some details will protect your child.

It is a parent's natural instinct to shield their child from confusion or worry.

According to research, however, not telling a child can have the opposite effect.

Tell your kids that some people's brains just don't work the same as other people's and that this can lead to erratic emotions.

While being truthful with them, take their age and maturity into account.

The way in which you communicate with your children will depend largely on their age and level of maturity.

Giving older kids a straightforward and honest explanation of mental health issues helps them to better grasp the concepts at play.

You may want to consult a mental health professional for advice on how to explain bipolar disorder to your kids if you're having trouble doing so.

They are better suited to guide you and your family through this difficult time.

Have Frequent Conversations

Many mental health illnesses are called "intermittent" because the symptoms come and go over the course of a person's life.

Also, it may change in severity based on age, level of stress, or a number of other things.

Beginning early on in the course of your condition, talking about your feelings, thoughts, and actions can help.

Keeping communication open and mutual understanding a priority can be challenging but essential.

Being open to their inquiries and worries is a great way to strengthen your relationship with your kids.

Listen To Their Questions And Concerns

Because kids have so many questions about symptoms and how they can help, it's important to listen to their questions and concerns.

Plan to meet with a mental health clinician along with your children to discuss the issue and their concerns if you do not have all the pertinent details.

If your kid asks you a question and you don't know the answer, it's fine to admit that you don't and then figure it out together.

When you leave room for their questions and for them to express their concerns, it brings you closer.

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Amanda Rehfeld, LPCC

I see you, I hear you, and I validate you.

Aurora, Colorado

(720) 449-4121

Explain That It Is Not Their Fault

Anger and guilt are common emotions for children of ill parents.

Life's unfairness to them may lead to feelings of unfairness and guilt.

A small percentage of children may even blame themselves for their parent's illnesses.

Helping people cope with these kinds of emotions is essential if you want them to have more fulfilling lives.

Little ones need to learn that no one is to blame for their parent's illness.

It's not always the fault of the children involved when something like this occurs in life.

Encourage them to find healthy ways to express their emotions and reassure them that it's okay to feel sad, angry, embarrassed, or frustrated.

Come Up With A Plan With Them

While you explain bipolar disorder to your children, it is a good idea to let them know that it is a lifelong diagnosis.

Let them be a part of coming up with a management plan for your diagnosis.

Include your children in this strategy to help them feel like a part of the solution.

Consistency is key when you have a management plan in place because it will make your kids feel safer.

In the event of an emergency, older children will feel more prepared and secure if they have a plan in place.

Make sure your kids know who to call for help and where to go in an emergency.

As an additional resource, you can assist them in finding a reliable adult they can talk to whenever they feel the need.

Spend some time with them formulating age-appropriate answers to questions other kids or adults might ask about their loved one's illness.

Preparing your child for teasing from other children is important because children can be especially cruel to each other.

It will be very useful if they practice what to say and how to explain the illness.


Remember to be patient and understanding with your children, as they may require time to process the information and comprehend what is happening.

While you will need support for bipolar disorder, so also will your children in order for them to cope.

Ways to explain bipolar disorder to your children include being honest, having frequent conversations, listening to their questions and concerns, explaining that it is not their fault, and coming up with a plan with them.


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May 28th, 2023

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