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When A Parent Has Bipolar Disorder (What Kids Want To Know And More)


It is scary how children come up with different stories when anyone in the family is ill. They tend to ask a lot of questions regarding the health of their loved ones, and when they don’t get answers – they make one.

Bipolar Disorder is often made a secret by a parent or a family member who is also hard to explain to children. Because of that, folks just keep it to themselves to avoid misunderstandings with other members of the family. However, aside from them, their children also need some support and explanation regarding the disorder to grasp what their parent is going through.

Talking to children will still depend on the child’s maturity and capability to understand things. Since the parents know their child best, they have a better idea on how to approach their kids.

The following guide can help parents begin their first step in opening up to their children about their Bipolar Disorder.

Bipolar Disorder: Defined

  • In simple terms, Bipolar disorder is a mental health problem.
  • It affects a person’s thoughts, actions, and emotions.
  • They think, act and feel differently compared to those without a mental health issue.
  • A person with bipolar disorder may be too low or too happy.
  • This disorder may vary from mild to severe which is difficult to handle.

Other People’s Perspective On Those With Bipolar Disorder

  • When a person has Bipolar disorder, their mood changes through different cycles.
  • They can go ecstatic at one moment or be active even without proper sleep; then, they can be very depressed and not get out of bed on another instance.

Low Mood: Defined

  • They may feel very irritated, grow impatient or cry a lot.
  • Sometimes, without valid reasons, they may refuse to join family gatherings or might get tired immediately.
  • Their low mood makes it difficult for them to concentrate and makes them worry in the extreme.

The Effect Of Bipolar Disorder To Families

  • Their high mood makes them feel like they can do anything.
  • They feel excited even without reason.
  • This mood also makes them easily distracted and let them stay awake longer.

The Effect Of Bipolar Disorder Condition

  • While a parent explains the symptoms of the disorder to a child, the parent can now mention the reasons why the condition can affect everyone in the family.
  • A parent with bipolar disorder may do something inappropriate or unusual when they are in their high or low mood.
  • This may cause the children to feel sad, scared or confused. Nonetheless, when they reach their normal mood, the parents will act like themselves slowly.

The Causes Of Bipolar Disorder

  • Children must understand that bipolar disorder is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain and the symptoms may appear or disappear with no apparent reason. “It helps individuals with bipolar disorder to understand what worsens and what triggers their illness,” says Stephen Ferrando, MD, director of psychiatry at Westchester Medical Center Health Network.
  • It may be inherited, but only one out of 10 children can develop bipolar disorder if their parents have it.

Can Bipolar Condition be Fixed?

  • Bipolar disorder is treatable through medicine.
  • There is no known cure for the disorder.
  • But it can be prevented and managed every time the symptoms arise.

Intervention To Treat Bipolar Disorder

  • “The first line of intervention for bipolar disorder is medication,” says Simon Rego, PsyD, chief psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center. The parents may be treated through medicine so that the chemical imbalance in the brain may be placed at bay.
  • They can also get well through talk therapy. It helps them understand ways to cope with their situation.
  • The children and other family members may also be subject of the consultation to understand their parent’s struggles further.

Is There Anything I Can Do To Make My Mom Or Dad Feel Better?

  • Children may offer emotional support and show love for their parents.
  • Just knowing what your parent is going through is already a great help for them.

The Possibility Of Having Bipolar Disorder

  • Children should not worry much about the possibility of contracting Bipolar Disorder since the chances are minuscule.
  • It is nothing like a cold or any contagious illness.
  • Nonetheless, they can still talk to an adult or a counselor if they are afraid to have the same disorder.

How To Prevent Bipolar Disorder From Affecting You Severely

  • They should always stay healthy and happy and talk to family members about the things they are experiencing. This is because opening oneself to others may give them the chance to help or to make the member feel better.
  • Parents and children may also participate in hobbies, sports and other activities that may make them feel good about themselves.

What To Do When You Get Scared Of The Bipolar Condition?

  • It is important to make concrete plans, as a parent, to make their children understand the mood changes.
  • They can make a list of signs – telling their children that they are okay or not okay.
  • They can also give their children a contact person to call if something goes wrong.
  • Finally, parents can tell their children to list down their questions if they want something to be clarified.

Questions About Self-Harm

Some people with bipolar disorder may be at risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts. They may say things which equate to death, and that can scare their children. However, it is essential to assure their children that they do not mean any harm.

In discussing this issue with children, it is important to reassure them that:

  • The parent has no intention to harm or kill themselves.
  • And if the parent feels so bad that he wanted to die, he or she must talk to a therapist or doctor right away. “A person with bipolar may lose their job or their relationships with other people,” says David Roane, MD, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Psychosocial treatments can help them readjust.”