How to Support Children & Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder & When to Get Help
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings between mania (highs) and depression (lows). Children and adolescents with bipolar disorder may experience these mood changes more frequently and intensely than their adult counterparts. This is, in part, due to the fact that they’re still developing mentally.
As a parent or caregiver, you’ll need to understand how to support and calm children with bipolar disorder. This includes recognizing when it’s time to seek professional help.
Bipolar Disorder in Children and Adolescents
Bipolar disorder has a variety of symptoms when it comes to children. Increased energy, impulsivity, irritability, or engaging in risky behaviors are signs of a manic episode. During depressive episodes, children may be sad, withdrawn, or disinterested in activities they usually enjoy.
Caregivers and educators must know how to recognize these symptoms and understand that mood swings in children with bipolar disorder are beyond their control. Being compassionate, patient, and supportive can significantly help children navigate their emotions and daily life.
Calming Techniques for Children & Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder
1. Establish a routine
Consistency in daily routines can help children and adolescents with bipolar disorder feel more secure and in control. Do your best to create a predictable environment by maintaining regular mealtimes, bedtimes, and daily activities.
2. Encourage open communication
Foster an environment where children and adolescents can openly express their feelings and emotions without fear of judgment. Encourage them to share their thoughts and experiences, and validate their emotions.
3. Teach coping strategies
Help children develop coping mechanisms to manage their emotions, such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or journaling.
4. Offer praise and encouragement
Positive reinforcement helps children and adolescents with bipolar disorder build self-esteem and confidence. Make sure you acknowledge their accomplishments, strengths, and efforts.
5. Educate yourself and others
You should learn as much as possible about bipolar disorder to better understand and support the child in your care. Educate others around the child, such as teachers, family members, and friends, to promote understanding and reduce any negative stigma.
6. Create a calm environment
Minimize stress and sensory overload by creating a calm and comforting space for the child or adolescent to relax in. Soft lighting, quiet music, and comfortable seating can help soothe anxiety and agitation. It’s also a good idea to maintain a clean home where they can feel relaxed and at ease.
When to Seek Professional Help for Bipolar Disorder
It’s essential to recognize when a child or adolescent with bipolar disorder may need additional support from mental health professionals. Some signs that indicate it’s time to seek help include:
- Their symptoms are worsening, or their mood swings are becoming more frequent and intense.
- They’re struggling in school, socially or emotionally, even with extra support.
- They are engaging in self-harm or expressing suicidal thoughts.
Get Help for Children with Bipolar Disorder
It’s important to understand the unique challenges faced by children and adolescents with bipolar disorder. Our mental health professionals provide professional services to help children manage this condition and lead fulfilling lives.
If your child or adolescent needs help with bipolar disorder, please reach out to the Northern California Behavioral Health System today.