It’s a stressful time for any family whose child or teen receives a diagnosis of bipolar disorder; the more you know about how to help your son or daughter cope with symptoms of this brain disorder, the better. Here are ten strategies to help:
#1 Educate your child or teen
A diagnosis of bipolar disorder will be a frightening experience for your son or daughter. There will be questions about treatment—both from a medication and therapy. There will be issues of stigma he will be dealing with. Explain what could be expected in either a manic or depressive mood episode and that you will both have to come to understand the triggers. You will need to explain the boundaries in terms of what behavior will be tolerated and what the discipline will be.
#2 Explain treatment
Educate your child that his treatment protocol can make life better and also that it can change as the symptoms of his disorder changes. It’s important he realize the importance of taking his medication on a regular basis. Encourage your child to be patient and explain that treatment can take time but the best thing is to stick with it.
#3 Keep a daily life chart
Encourage your child or teen to talk to you about how she’s feeling, and pay careful attention; be very aware of behavior, mood, sleep patterns and diet. The best way to track all this is to write in a chart or journal at the end of every day; bring this chart with you to your child’s doctor appointments.
#4 Learn the warning signs
There will be warning signs or red flags that trigger a mood episode. Sometimes it can be too little sleep or it can be stress in the household; in some cases, these warning signs of them can be very subtle so you will need to pay very close attention in order to learn to avoid these triggers. By keeping a daily life chart, recognizing the warning signs will be much easier.
#5 Establish a sleep schedule
Stress to your child how important sleep hygiene is with keeping mood episodes in check. However, also have a plan of action in the case of a manic episode, where your child is unable to sleep, or if they do, they only sleep two or three hours and are full of energy. A change in a sleep schedule can be one of the more prevalent warning signs of a new mood episode.
#6 Help your child keep a regular exercise routine
Realize that it’s normal for children with mood disorders to have either low energy or too much energy levels. Teach your child that it’s proven that exercise will help his mood, especially if he’s feeling low. Aside from being able to get rid of some agitation through physical activity, exercise can also help him to fall asleep easier.
#7 Keep an eye on appetite changes
In children with bipolar episodes, one of the more common symptoms is an alteration in appetite. Some children with depression have an increased appetite and find solace in eating carbohydrates; other children may experience a loss of appetite and aren’t interested in eating or the food doesn’t taste good. Keep an eye on any weight loss or gain.
#8 Maintain routine
Having regularity in activities and structure is calming for children and teens with bipolar disorder. As much as possible, avoid disruptions to their schedule and when it can’t be helped, as in a family vacation, try to find soothing activities to ease the stress during these difficult times of the day.
#9 Decrease stress
Stressful situations can destabilize the moods people with bipolar – in both children and adults. Look for ways that stress can be minimized or avoided; be a role model and work at minimizing family conflict, including parental disagreements. Avoid arguing in front of your child. Also, be aware of stressful events outside of the home, like your child’s school or with his peers and talk to him about how to manage such situations.
#10 Have a crisis plan
Talk to your son or daughter about a plan in the event of a major mood episode. Utilize a team approach and agree on who will be able to help, both at school and at home i.e. parents, extended family, teachers, sports coaches, guidance counselors.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community