Parenting is tough business in general and if you happen to be a parent of a child diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, your role of a parent becomes a lot more demanding and challenging. Here, we share a few tips with those parents and caregivers who are new at caring for a child with bipolar disorder.
Children who have bipolar disorder go through a range of emotions and can experience drastic shifts in their mood. They can be calm one minute and hop right into a full blown manic state and be completely withdrawn and depressed the next. To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a child needs to experience mood alterations from a manic mental state to one of being clinically depressed. It is common for children with bipolar to combine their manic and depressive states together and form an “aggressive depressed” state.
Children are known to through tantrums and become angry or annoyed from time to time and become sad over matters that would seem trivial for adults. This scenario is different in the case of bipolar disorder and can quickly become dangerous as the children lose total control over their emotions. The anger tantrums soon transform into rage and the child may become violent. The rational, thinking part of the brain located in the frontal cortex completely shuts down during this phase of rage and the limbic system (area of the brain responsible for rage) takes charge, resulting in a physically strong and violent child. All this can happen in the split of a second, without warning and without any triggers and can last for hours. The important thing to understand here is that a chemical imbalance is the cause of their odd behaviour and parents need to take the necessary steps to handle the situation appropriately.
Here are a few tips for parents and caregivers to consider:
Get an evaluation
Get a mental health professional to evaluate your child and make sure that a formal diagnosis of the condition is made.
Ask the right questions
Read about the condition and ask questions on points you wish to gain clarification on, from the mental health professional. A few good questions to ask would be: What is the condition all about? What changes can we expect in our child? How to parent other children along with your child who is bipolar? How to parent such a child during episodes of rage? When should we seek professional help? What would constitute an emergency? Ask about medication and other treatment options.
Keep the high energy in control
Children with this condition lack a healthy emotional regulation mechanism and therefore may be anxious, irritable and find it difficult to stay calm. It is common for children with bipolar disorder to become super energised at night and sleepy during the day. Their body clock (circadian rhythm) is majorly disrupted due to bio-chemical changes in the brain. Medication can help control some of these symptoms and it is necessary for parents to expect such changes and discuss them with their psychiatrist.