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Parenting A Bipolar Teenager with Expert Guide!

Parenting A Bipolar Teenager with Expert Guide!

Bipolar disorder is a mental health issue where severe mood swings and mood episodes occur. The person may feel depressed or highly manic. Parenting a bipolar teenager is very tough. Parents need to:

  • Understand bipolar disorder.
  • Identify potential triggers.
  • Develop a structured environment.
  • Set realistic expectations.
  • Take care of their mental health.
  • Choose family-focused therapies.
  • Use prescribed medication.
  • Be a strong parent.
  • Reinforce positive behaviors.
  • Keep a pre-planned crisis strategy.

In this blog, we’ll talk about all the above-mentioned tips and approaches about how to parent a bipolar teenager step by step!

What is Bipolar Disorder in Teenagers?

Adolescence is mostly the stage of onset for bipolar disorders and other mental disorders. However, children can also suffer from bipolar symptoms. As the name depicts, bipolar means two poles. Teenagers having bipolar disorder can show extreme high and low mood episodes. These highs and lows are not like normal happiness and sadness. They are maniac and depressive episodes.

parenting a bipolar teenager
Bipolar disorder can cause suicidal tendencies!

Teenage is already a stage of abrupt changes. The body of a teenager is undergoing distinct changes. Their brains are also experiencing new surges of neurotransmitters and hormones. They are also facing new external stressors. In all this, the onset of a bipolar episode can aggravate the situation even more. Being a parent if you want to know about bipolar disorder in detail, go through the books:

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to bipolar disorder in teens with bipolar. Malfunctioning of neurotransmitters in the brain or stressors in the environment can play equal roles. However, genes tend to follow a stronger pathway. This is why both medication and a modified lifestyle are used to treat bipolar disorders in teenagers. In order to understand, the causes, treatments, myths and every other thing about this disorder, read through Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar Disorder Explained!

How to Parent A Teenager having Bipolar Disorder?

A teenager suffering from bipolar disorder has to deal with a lot of difficulties. Even their parents have to experience a completely different aspect of life. This is completely different from what parents of normal teenagers experience. Bipolar adolescents need assistance and guidance and education. As parents, you must understand their behavior more clearly. Only, then will you be able to parent them positively.

Adolescents suffer from both instances of bipolar I and bipolar II, including:

  • Extreme episodes of depressions.
  • Extreme manic episodes.

Some tips for parenting bipolar adolescents have been enlisted below for the concerned parents:

1. Understand what bipolar disorder means!

The most important thing for a parent is to understand the situation of the teenager. Some of the parents lack a basic understanding of the bipolar disorder. As a result, they cannot comprehend their teenager’s situation and behavior.

Therefore, the parents must understand what is happening with their teenagers. If a diagnosis has not been done, then parents need to critically identify and evaluate the behavior of the child. Then they should consult a qualified mental health professional to seek proper guidance and help. Family therapy and talk therapy should always be opted.

If a diagnosis has already been made, then parents need to study the different dimensions of bipolar disorder. Understand that the behaviors of the teenager are symptoms of the disease. They are not doing these things voluntarily or consciously. Most of the time the teenager feels a lot of guilt at the end of an emotional outburst.

Never let anyone label your child as “a bipolar” because people may have bipolar disorder but they are never bipolar as a personality. Labeling makes things worse for the person who is already suffering from a lot.

2. Identify potential triggers!

Identification of potential triggers plays a pivotal role in dealing with a bipolar teenager. This is because triggers work like tickling bombs and can explode the emotions and mood episodes of the teenager in the worst imaginable way. The triggers work in two ways. they can either initiate an episode or they can worsen an already initiated depressive or manic phase. So, understand triggers in detail.

When a trigger occurs, the teenager can go from a calm mood into a maniac mood. In the same way, a positive teenager can become highly depressed in short time duration. Always remember that things may seem small to you, but they can have huge impacts on the teenager’s mood changes.

parenting a bipolar teenager
Identifying the triggers is important!

Some commonly occurring triggers for a bipolar person have been enlisted below:

  • Verbal abuse in the form of yelling, negative statements, threats or simple hurtful tones.
  • Bringing on the past and traumatic experiences the teenager had gone through again and again.
  • Controlling or even trying to control their day-to-day life routines.
  • Demotivating them by saying that they can never go anything in life over and over again.
  • Trespassing over their privacy in different ways.

Identifying and managing these triggers within the house are achievable. However, situations are usually alarming outside the homes. Therefore, parents need to remain in regular contact with the teachers and counselors of the teenagers. Similarly, the teenager’s parents and friends need to remain in close contact. This helps the parents in identifying the potential triggers outside the home and adopt parenting techniques accordingly.

3. Importance of a structured environment!

A structured environment is highly beneficial for teenagers who suffer from bipolar disorder. This is not limited to any individual aspect of life. Instead, everything needs to be structured when it comes to teens with bipolar disorder.

“The brain thrives on structure and routine, especially when you have a mental illness.”

Sheri Van Dijk, Psychotherapist in Sharon, Ontario, Canada.

Set a specific bedtime routine for your teenager as he may face trouble sleeping. If he will go to sleep and wake up at the same time daily, he’ll manage the entire day’s routine easily. Similarly, meal times of a teenager suffering from bipolar disorder need proper scheduling. This keeps the glucose levels in the blood optimal as well. If children with bipolar remain hungry for long periods of time, stress arises.

If you cannot follow the schedules at some times, there is no need to get panic. As a parent, you need to find plausible solutions through research. Then you can accommodate accordingly. This keeps your teenager and yourself at peace with the external environment as well.

4. Set Realistic expectations for bipolar disorder!

Always remember that your child with bipolar is different and he has special needs. These needs are completely different from those of normal children. It is not a healthy approach if you’ll compare your teenager with his or her peers or other children. If you’ll do so, you’ll be making things even harder for yourself and your teen.

Focus on the individuality of your bipolar child. Work with him to develop expectations that he can meet easily. Keep in mind that if you believe that certain goals are easy, this does not mean that they are for the bipolar child. Therefore work as a team with children with bipolar disorder. Choose step-by-step approaches.

5. A mentally healthy parent is important against bipolar disorder!

Parenting children with bipolar disorder is a very hectic activity. It requires a lot of patience from the side of parents. Many times it happens that the parents become emotionally and psychologically exhausted. Such parents tend to face difficulties in dealing with their teens.

Parents must take care of their mental health too. They can seek professional help in the forms of therapies, community programs, support groups, and even friends and family. Talking with other parents having teenagers suffering from bipolar disorder can also help a lot. All in all, the mental health of parents shows how psychologically strong the teens will be.

6. Can Family-focused therapy be the best approach for bipolar disorder?

This is a question that many parents ask. Family-focused therapies aim at keeping the whole family in the loop during treatment plan. This includes parents, siblings, and other family members who live in the same place. In this way, everyone is taught how to deal with different situations and treatment options that may arise in the house.

Siblings and young adults can also put in their contributions. They can also help the teens outside the home. Research shows that the role of siblings is important in lives of teens with bipolar. For example, if a sibling is in the same school as the teen they can help a lot. Even the friends of the teens can become a part of the therapy sessions.

7. Importance of medication in bipolar disorder!

Medication is an essential thing for teenagers who suffer from bipolar disorder. Consulting a psychiatrist or child’s health care provider for this purpose is a must. Once the doctor has prescribed the medication, the major role of parents comes. Make sure that the teen takes the medication on time.

You can use timers or alarms to get notified. Similarly, pillboxes can prove to be very beneficial. For example, if you are traveling you can use pillboxes to keep the medicines accessible. Furthermore, schools must be kept in the loop so that teachers can help kids in taking medicines. All in all, medication is an important part of parenting a bipolar teenager. However, child’s health care provider must also be kept in loop.

8. Strong but loving parents help a lot in bipolar disorder!

Loving parents are important in mental health treatment of every child with bipolar. However, they also need to be strong. Strong parents instill specific boundaries easily. They do not let the teens do whatever they like. Teens with bipolar disorder need regulation and discipline. They should not be punished as normal teens. Punishment can make the situation worse.

Parents need to clarify certain boundaries for such children. When they are in calm moods, tell them about those boundaries. For example, they should be clear that hurting others is not allowed. Also, tell them about the consequences of such actions. In this way, the teens will know everything before showing any outburst.

However, when they show an emotional meltdown wait for them to relax. Once they relax, go for the consequences. This will leave a lasting impression. Parents can help in dealing with other issues like oppositional defiant disorder and other risky behaviors. Mood changes of such children and other symptoms need constant tracking. A treatment plan includes all these aspects.

9. Importance of reinforcing positive behaviors in bipolar disorder!

Reinforcing positive behaviors in bipolar disorder is an optimal parenting approach. Teens having bipolar disorder have to put in many efforts. They cannot easily control their emotions. Their outbursts occur at anytime and anywhere. So when they try to control themselves, they deserve due praise.

Always reinforce their positive behaviors. This develops their character strength. They start believing in themselves. Praise even the smallest gestures of control. Follow this approach to see the results and changes in the child’s moods. This has been approved by the national institute of mental health as well.

10. Why a pre-planned crisis strategy is important?

An important question when parenting a bipolar teenager is what to do when a manic or depressive episode occurs!

Talk with the psychiatrist of your teen. Develop a plan. Act on the plan when needed. This helps a lot. When an emergency occurs, you know what to do. Keep the hospital final. You can simply take the teen there when needed. Also, keep emergency medications within reach. They can help too.

Keep items like knives and scissors away. Ensure the safety of siblings. Keep yourself calm. Prevent potentially dangerous confrontations. For example, if you are driving don’t argue with your teen.

Manic Versus Depressive Symptoms in Bipolar Teens

When a teenager is going through a manic episode, he will:

  • Show impulsive actions.
  • Indulge in silly acts.
  • Experience a short temper.
  • Experience rapid and uneven speech.
  • Feel difficulty in maintaining his focus.

On the other hand, a depressive episode in teenagers is depicted by:

  • Suicidal Thoughts.
  • Hopelessness.
  • A lot of sleep.
  • Indecision.
  • Feelings of extreme sadness.
  • Either Binge-eating or no eating at all.

Parents have to look for all these signs and symptoms while parenting a bipolar teenager!


All in all, bipolar disorder is a challenging experience for the parents and teens equally. However, with proper parenting and guidelines, you can be successful. Believe in yourself and your teenager. Works as a team and you’ll definitely be able to become a winner.

We would be very happy to hear from you on the comments sections of our Facebook page. You can also visit our Quora page. Feel free to leave your comments and queries!

About The Author

Affaf Amjad

Having an MPhil in Applied psychology and being a mother of three kids, I have always tried to try and test different psychological interventions and approaches in the day-to-day routine of my kids. Sharing my results and effective strategies with parents around the globe is the my main aim as a writer.

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