How to deal with your child’s bipolar disorder

You never think as a parent you will hear the words “bipolar disorder” pertaining to your six-year-old child. But that’s what happened when our son Trace was diagnosed by Sunny Hill just last month with a mental illness, and my heart broke.

I still can’t believe it. I look at my child and all I see is his warm smile and big heart in front of me. Then my fears set in. I do not want him to have to deal with a mental illness.

I don’t want my son to have to grow up the way I did. Always thinking that something is wrong. I don’t want his diagnosis to define him, or the way he deals with society.

That’s when it hit me. How am I going to deal with my child’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder?

A friend of mine who has dealt with her fair share of disabilities and raising children talked to me about my feelings and how to cope with my child being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She had this to say…

You cannot let your disability or your diagnosis define you or your actions because society does not treat you or awknowledge your issues when you behave badly, act up or do things to hurt others. They treat you like everyone else whose being a jerk and unkind. So we have to teach our children to be strong, act kindly, follow the rules and not let them use their disabilities to excuse their actions or behavior.

She was right. Society doesn’t see the challenges adults have in dealing with mental illness, so I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be for a child having bipolar disorder.

Each day is a new challenge. Kids growing up often feel bad about themselves and struggle with self-esteem issues. So tacking on dealing with bipolar disorder along with the changes that come with puberty and discovering who they are, makes it hard for parents to know where to begin.

Things that parents may hear and see when dealing with a child that has bipolar disorder.

  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Self-hatred
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Hearing voices
  • Hallucinating
  • Angry or emotional outbursts
  • Behavioral issues when thing don’t turn out right
  • Hating everything
  • Violent outburst
  • Anxiety or severe depression

As a parent, it’s our job to make sure our children are happy and healthy. Dealing with something like bipolar disorder can make things hard for a child and parent to have an understanding.

My son’s favorite quote to describe how he deals with having bipolar disorder.

We are working on helping Trace learn to cope with having bipolar disorder, especially since he’s so young right now. One thing I tell myself is that it is nobody’s fault my child has a mental illness. The brain is a complex thing. We don’t fully understand what makes it tick but we can learn.

Ways you as a parent can help you and your child deal with bipolar disorder.

Join a group or forum – A support group can help you cope and deal with your child’s mental illness. Having this type of emotional support, knowing you aren’t alone, dealing with your fears and worries can help you help your child.

Understanding the disorder – Take some time to understand what your child is going through. The quickest way to do this is to understand the positive and negative effects bipolar disorder can have on your child.

Keep a mood journal – It is important for parents of children dealing with a mental illness to keep a mood journal. Tracking your child’s moods, when they change or shift, what went on before the mood began, along with what they were eating, watching or doing can help in discovering the triggers that cause the behavior to happen.

Get in touch with your local youth and mental health – Check your local community services and get in touch with child and mental health. They have great programs for both parents and children, teaching and developing skills to help families deal with loving someone struggling with mental issues.

As a mother, my wish is to do things to make my son’s life and the issues he is facing easier. By understanding his illness, the triggers that cause his moods to change, and by trying to gain the tools to teach him how to deal with what he is going through can help make his life easier.

Do you know anyone suffering from a mental illness?


  1. February 8, 2017 at 3:06 am

    Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.

    Keep Posting:)

  2. Abagail August 21, 2012 at 1:33 am

    This is such a sweet post. I can't imagine what it's like having to see your child so upset. I hope he realizes sooner rather than later just how important he is to everyone.

  3. Whispered Inspiratio August 9, 2012 at 3:32 am

    Omigosh. Jodi, I am sending you hugs and lots of them. Though, I'm sure you have this down pat, I could imagine how hard it can be. Thanks for sharing this insight on this disorder, I think the more we educate each other the less prejudice or ignorance there will be. I try to teach my girls, that sometimes for certain reasons, kids act differently and we shouldn't treat them badly. I hope I'm teaching her right! *fingers crossed*

    1. Jodi Shaw - Site Author August 9, 2012 at 4:36 am

      Your kids are so darn cute I wanna eat them up! lol and thanks so much hugs are always appreciated. πŸ™‚

  4. SamiJoe August 8, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    I hadn't heard of early on-set and in fact, thought that Bipolar began to surface in your 20's. It is in the family and I'm always wondering if we should be looking for early signs? Thanks for this post. I'll be sure to look into things deeper.

    (To clarify, not regarding my own kids.)

    1. Jodi Shaw - Site Author August 9, 2012 at 4:35 am

      Thanks Sami, yeah I had no idea they could diagnose so early but apparently they can. We went through CDC for three days of assessment by experts and this is what they came up with. I didn't get a diagnosis until I was 25 but I guess they know more now about mental illness.

  5. Evan August 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Great article and read, Jodi. Thank you for sharing your son's experiences.