Families are experts when it comes to helping kids who deal with bipolar, anxiety or ADHD challenges; so we’ve asked some parents to share what they learned along the way:
#1 Make your voice heard
While it’s wise to trust the professionals, you may also have to speak up and intervene if you feel your child is not getting the level of care you know he needs and should be receiving. Says one parent: “You know your child the best, so if someone is not listening to you, whether it’s your school or medical providers, make your voice heard until someone listens.”
#2 Don’t mistake ignorance for truth
There will be those who have trouble relating to what they don’t know and may come across as doubtful about symptoms you describe about your child. “Don’t sweat the reactions and often disbelieving comments from other adults in your life,” says this mother. “On multiple occasions, teachers or friends tried to talk with me about better discipline with my kid, stating that was the problem. It’s good to be open to hear truth when spoken from a trusted advisor, but don’t mistake ignorance for truth.”
#3 It pays to learn about symptoms
For one parent, she discovered symptoms she didn’t realize were native to a diagnosis of bipolar, such as hypersexualization. “When my son first started sharing things, he was embarrassed and I was a bit shocked, but I quickly learned in my research that certain behaviors are “normal.” It made me feel so relieved that what he was experiencing was actually common. Subsequently, I passed that information along to him, so he didn’t have to feel so embarrassed and awkward about what he was dealing with.”
#4 Perseverance is key
While it can be a challenging road, especially when trying to keep symptoms at bay and navigating what medication or treatment will work, being steadfast in your determination is important. “I have to keep hoping; I can’t give up. I know that there’s nothing like a mother’s love,” says this mom. “If I’m not there for him, who will be? That’s my role, and it will be forever.”
#5 Have patience in the treatment journey
The medication and treatment road can be ever changing and frustrating. And because they are teenagers and young adults their body and brain chemistry is still changing and growing, so getting the right medication mix may be complicated. As this parent explains, “not every medicine works the same for every child. What worked for my son at 14, does not work for the young man in the adult body. This is not like having the flu and taking antibiotics and you’re back at work in a week.”
#6 Trust yourself
“I’ve learned to trust my gut when it comes to understanding my child,” says this mom. “I wish I had known that it was much more than a typical teenager acting out and making poor decisions. I could have questioned the rapid change in his behavior, how much time he spent with bad friends, the aggression and anger, and the bouts of intoxication that I didn’t know what to do with.”
#7 Make sleep a priority—for everyone
The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. This is true for both you and your children. For you, your own health can sometimes rely on getting enough rest. And for your kid, getting consistent and adequate sleep could mean the difference to having a manic episode. “I sleep to reenergize myself,” says this parent.
#8 Take care of you!
Look after yourself! Easy to say, but it truly is essential to follow this important piece of advice. After sleep, says this mom, “surround yourself with positive, good friends who really understand and accept you.” And, as another parent advises: “Keep as much of your own life and dreams as you can and don’t let [what you’re dealing with] take over your life.”
#9 Take one day at a time
Find a balance between acceptance and trying to make things better. “Do fun things with your child. Build positive memories. It can’t always be about bipolar. Find someone to lean on. You need the support. Take baths, long walks; make time for you. You’ll be healthier and happier.”
#10 Never stop fighting
“My advice to other parents is to never give up fighting for your child—at school, with your family doctor, with your spouse,” says this parent. “You know your child best. Learn. Read. Ask questions. At the same time, give yourself some grace. This is a long-term process with set-backs and successes.”
bp Magazine and bphope.com are dedicated to inspiring and providing information to people living with bipolar disorder and their families, caregivers, and health-care professionals. bp Magazine works to empower those diagnosed with bipolar to live healthy, fulfilling lives by delivering first-person success stories—including celebrity profiles and essays by people with lived experience—as well as informative articles addressing topics such as relationships, employment, sleep, exercise, stress reduction, mood management, treatments, and cutting-edge news and research.
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