Treating the Bipolar Child
How to Help Your Young One
If you suspect that your child has bipolar disorder, you may be feeling confused, helpless, and overwhelmed. You may be wondering how the family dynamics will be affected. You may be assessing the changes that you will be making in your life and wondering how or what you will do. You may be worried that you wont know how to support your child. The good news is, most families fare well when they reach out for support. Here are a few tips on how to do that, and what you can do to help your child who you suspect has bipolar disorder.
- Get a referral: Get a referral to see a psychiatrist that specializes in children that are of the same age group as your child. The most common model for treatment of bipolar is the four-phase process. This includes getting a thorough evaluation and correct diagnosis, stabilizing the child if she or he is in crisis, having a manic or depressive episode, is homicidal or suicidal, or is experiencing psychosis, and then working toward recovery from a depressed or manic state, and finally, achieving and maintaining stability; or what is called euthymia. Euthymia is a mood that is within a normal range that is reasonably happy or good, without being manic, or hypomanic.
- Participate in family therapy: There are allot of adjustments that are required in order to support a child with bipolar disorder. Family therapy that includes cognitive behavior therapy, will help parents, siblings, and the diagnosed child adjust to the care needs of the child, as well as the changes in the home routine of that will affect the entire family system. By working with a psychologist to help you with these processes and changes, you can also reduce stress in the family, improve communication, assure safety and security of all family individuals, and resolve issues related to hurt feelings or fear or loss that might have resulted from the impact that the diagnosed child’s behavior might have had on the family. Medication issues and education about bipolar disorder can be addressed in family therapy as well. It is ideal if the psychologist and prescribing psychiatrist both have consent to communicate with each other to optimize and ensure the very best treatment for both the diagnosed child and the family.
- Create predictable routines: Create predictable routines in a stable home environment in order to help your child regulate his or her moods; you will want to design a routine that encourages healthy sleeping and eating patterns. Regular times for shifting focus are also important. This mean have a predictable routine for study time, snack time, meal time, medication time, and bed time. You will want to arrange the routine according to your child’s rhythms. Try to assess when your child normally gets hungry. This can be manipulated if you need to change the time to work with your family, but you will want to go very slow and make changes in small increments so that your child’s body can adjust to the changes adequately. Changes in routine can sometime trigger and episode.
We are really working toward creating an environment that enhances your child’s quality of life while supporting your child’s stability. We are focusing on “Quality of Life” . With that said, some important goals to this end include:
- Managing the symptoms of bipolar effectively
- Reducing the number of hospitalizations that the child will have
- Increasing the time that the child experience euthymia while decreasing the number of manic, hypomanic, or depressive episodes
- Finding the best medication and medication regimens that have the least interference with the child’s routine
- Having meaningful relationships with family members, teachers, coaches, etc.,
- Experiencing feelings of healthy belonging in family and community and doing well in school and with other extracurricular activities such as athletics, music, or art, etc.
Quality of Life should be considered when deciding what activities to encourage your child to engage in, and in planning the home routine to support such activities. By working with your family therapist, you will be able to find activities that match your child’s disposition and that will increase your child’s sense of self efficacy, confidence and self esteem, while also providing a skill/activity that he or she can use to manage emotions, moods and symptoms.
Bachmeier, D. (2015). Treating the Bipolar Child. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 23, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/bipolar-update/2015/06/treating-the-bipolar-child/