When children live with bipolar disorder it can sometimes be difficult for them to make or keep friends and as parents, such social isolation can be painful to watch. Expert Susan Resko offers eight strategies to help:
#1 Let the school know
Inform your child’s teacher, social worker, or school administrator that your child is having difficulty with peer relationships. Schools can sometimes offer a structured lunchtime activity or teachers may be able to place your child in situations with another child who tends to be socially accepting.
#2 Reach out to other mothers
Depending on the age of your child, you may be able to reach out to compassionate mothers in your child’s class. Mention that your child has a hard time making friends; perhaps you will find someone who wants to help by encouraging a playdate.
#3 Enlist a mentor
A mentor can be a great way to get your child out of the house and involved in something fun. Therapeutic schools and special recreation programs are a good place to start. If none exist where you live, you may want to consider hiring a college student majoring in special education to hang out with your child a few hours each week. (Be sure to check references!)
#4 Encourage your child to explore new activities
This can be very difficult, so be prepared for setbacks. Be persistent—but keep it light and don’t pressure. If your child is easily frustrated, steer clear of highly competitive activities.
#5 Look for social-skills groups
These groups—sometimes found at your local youth services or community mental health center—provide instruction and practice for children to learn about better conversational skills, nonverbal communication, how to lose gracefully, and how to build friendships. The better programs will take care to place children in groups with compatible children.
#6 Try man’s best friend!
There are many therapeutic benefits to owning a dog or cat, and there are more therapy dog training programs than ever before. If you don’t relish the thought of training a puppy, or you don’t want to wait (or pay) for a therapy dog, talk to your local shelter and ask them to notify you when they receive a gentle, calm, patient pooch.
#7 Try group therapy
Group therapy can be a way for kids to practice social skills, receive valuable feedback, and even find a kindred spirit. The group dynamics have to be right to be effective, so you may have to try a few before you find a good fit.
#8 Set up a valuable bonding time together
While it is important to be the parent, that doesn’t mean you can’t also laugh and be silly with your child. In the absence of a playmate, keep it light and make a conscious effort to do fun things with your child. Even a 15-minute card game, or building with Legos together, can provide you with valuable bonding time and bring a smile to your child’s face.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community