How to Help Your Bipolar Teen Manage Life
1. Assemble a Good Medical Team
Your teen needs help to manage bipolar disorder. But you can’t be the one who does it all. Seek out the best medical experts you can afford. Ask for recommendations for psychiatrists, psychologists, and even dietitians. Keep the phone numbers of all your teen’s medical team in an easily-accessible place.
2. Encourage Good Sleep Habits
You don’t have as much control over your teenager’s sleep habits as you did when they were toddlers. But good sleep habits (what the experts call “sleep hygiene”) will help your teen to have more control over their moods and their mental health.
Involve them in the decision as much as possible. Help enforce a bedtime with parental control tools that limit internet or smartphone access after a certain hour. Wake them up at the same time every morning, even on the weekends.
3. Set Some Healthy Limits
Setting limits when you’re dealing with teenage bipolar disorder won’t be easy. You may be walking on eggshells as it is. The last thing you want to do is upset your teen and trigger an episode of extreme behavior.
But you still have the right to set reasonable limits like curfews and to expect them to do chores. These responsibilities and limits will actually help your teen, even if they object.
4. Help Them Find a Support System
Having bipolar disorder is difficult for anyone. But it’s especially difficult for teens who already face social challenges and a desire to fit in with peers.
Hence, help your teen find a support system of peers who understand the issues they face. Your teen’s psychiatrist may offer a support group for those with bipolar disorder or may provide a referral to one.
5. Talk to School Officials
Teenage bipolar disorder will have a major impact on your child’s daily functioning. It will show up most often at school. Your teen needs you to help advocate for them at their school. Ask to meet with a school counselor and the principal and explain the issues affecting them.
Ask for specific ways the school can accommodate your child, such as allowing more time for assignments during episodes of illness. You may need to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) with school staff, depending on the severity of your teen’s illness.
6. Encourage Artistic Expression
A lot of teens enjoy various forms of the arts. Your teen might enjoy playing music, writing poetry, or drawing anime characters in a sketchbook.
It doesn’t matter what type of artistic expression they choose. Expressing feelings through art can be especially helpful for teens with bipolar disorder. Creative work can be a safe way to process overwhelming emotions.
7. Help Them Manage Medications
Most people find it difficult to have to take multiple medications each day. Teens are no exception. Medication compliance is one of the biggest challenges for people with bipolar disorder. This can be an even bigger issue for teens who just want to fit in with their peers.
Medication side effects can also be unpleasant, especially at first. Make sure that they take their medication at the same time every day to give them the best chance at stability. You may want to set reminders in their phone for the times when they need to take their meds.
Managing teenage bipolar disorder can be challenging at times. But with a little bit of help, you can become your teen’s best advocate and encourage them to stay well.