For many parents of children with bipolar disorder, mornings can be the most dreaded part of the day. That’s when you are both most pressed for time and as we all know, bad things tend to happen when both parent and child are stressed. Dr. James Waxmonsky, a Pennsylvania-based psychiatrist, offers these strategies to make your mornings flow smoother:
#1 Recognize the challenges
If your child also has ADHD—which is common for children with bipolar—most medications take at least 30 minutes to start working, and that’s usually too long to be helpful in the morning rush. What’s more, many medications for bipolar are very sedating, making it even harder for children to get moving.
#2 Talk to your child’s doctor
There may be alternate ADHD medications that work quicker in the morning or bipolar medications that are less sedating. If your child’s moods have been stable, the nighttime dose could potentially be lowered to lessen the morning sedation. Sometimes, if your child takes his night dose earlier in the evening it will reduce his tiredness the following morning.
#3 Keep sleep patterns regular
The disruptive sleep patterns that children with ADHD and bipolar experience compound the problem, causing them to stay up later and sleep in longer. Hence, they’re faced with a host of demands while they’re sleep-deprived, their medication has not started working, and their parents are just as stressed as they are.
#4 Prepare the night before
You can increase the likelihood of an agreeable morning by preparing for it the night before. Make sure your child showers, packs his backpack, chooses clothes, and has his lunch ready for the next day. And, consider adjusting your schedule so your child can sleep in a little later. Is it possible to drive your child to school instead of making him get up 20 minutes earlier to catch the bus?
#5 Make a clear plan
Make it clear to your child what he needs to accomplish in the morning: write the steps down and post them in a visible location. If he’s old enough to tell time, let him know how long each task should take. No other activities should happen until the essentials are done. That means you shouldn’t let your child watch TV until he has dressed and eaten breakfast.
#6 Praise the positives
Getting ready on time is a challenging task for your child, so consider providing a reward, such as TV time or a small prize. Remember parental attention is the most powerful reward for children, and this can include children misbehaving for even negative attention if that’s all they receive. It’s important to praise your child when he’s running on time and limit critical feedback.
#7 Weather the storms
Despite our best efforts, sometimes meltdowns will occur. The first thing is to help your child become calm; it’s no use trying to get an intensely angry child to comply with a request. Taking the time to calm your child can be challenging when you’re on a schedule, but the reality is, sometimes you have to be a little late. Usually, planning ahead reduces the frequency of these late arrivals.
#8 Fine-tune the plan
The initial plan may need adjusting as it takes most children a few weeks to adapt to a new routine. Many children rebel against new rules, but any arguing should decrease over the course of a week or two, says Dr. Waxmonsky. He advises parents to stick with it and talk to your child’s psychologist to help troubleshoot any bumps along the way.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community