Parenting with Bipolar, How to cope and thrive

Parenting is complicated no matter who you are! Parenting with a mental illness can be a difficult and daunting task. It can be challenging for parents with bipolar disorder to manage the symptoms and provide their children with stability and structure. 

However, there are many things that you can implement as a parent to do the least amount of damage and still foster a healthy and loving home environment. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. 

What is a Bipolar Parent?

A Bipolar parent is a parent who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme mood, energy, and activity shifts. These shifts can be unpredictable and can last for days or weeks, creating havoc in your home. 

Parents with Bipolar often doubt their parenting abilities, but rest assured, most parents doubt their abilities to parent well at some stage or another. But I know because of your extreme ups and down, you will always wonder how your moods affect your child. Unfortunately, I wish I could tell you that it won’t, but the most likely answer is that it will lead to a certain degree. 

But this is where you will have to put a lot of work into yourself, building a support network, and taking care of your basic needs. Remember, you can be a great parent, even with bipolar disorder. Just because you have a mental illness doesn’t mean you can’t be a great parent. Don’t lose hope!

Practical Tips for Parenting with Bipolar Disorder.

Parenting with Bipolar Disorder can be challenging, but some practical tips can help make it easier. 

The Importance of Boundaries

Setting clear boundaries and expectations for your child and yourself is vital. It will help your child understand acceptable behavior and what is not. 

Please help your child understand Bipolar by talking about it, talking about your symptoms, and how it affects you. Sit with them and talk about what boundaries they can set for themselves to be least affected if you are experiencing a mood swing. If you are feeling exceptionally irritable, you can let them know that it is alright to voice their opinion and that they can take a break from you. 

They can go to their room and have a break from you or ask you to lie down for a bit until the irritability passes. You can also let them know if you were being exceptionally harsh or unreasonable about something that they can let you know. Remember that the things you say or do can significantly impact your child, and it might influence any future relationships they may have with anyone else. 

You must explain to your child that this is not their fault. They might develop quilt and feel like it is their fault. Be very careful and make sure that they set boundaries. If your child is very young, it might be difficult for them to understand why you snapped at them for something that they did, and they feel they did not do anything wrong your reaction was over the top. 

It can be challenging to be a good parent when you have bipolar disorder. You can get overwhelmed quickly and more often, and it can be tough to keep everything together. But one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family is to take a break when needed. 

Taking a break doesn’t make you a bad parent – it makes you better. When you take the time to relax and recharge, you’re better positioned to handle whatever comes your way. And that’s good for everyone involved. 

Creating a routine is crucial!

Routines can provide structure and stability for both you and your child. It can also help to reduce stress and anxiety. Having set routines in place can be difficult for you as a Bipolar parent; you can’t control how you feel or what mood you will wake up in. 

Having a routine in place will make your child feel safer and more secure, and it can ultimately let them know that if there is a break in routine, you might not be feeling yourself that day. 

Routines do not have to be set in stone or too rigid; that will be unnecessary pressure on you as a parent, ultimately making you feel like a failure. Routines can be kept simple. Keeping breakfast, lunch, and dinner more or less at the same time. Bath time or walking (I don’t mean going for a 5-kilometer walk). Could you keep it simple, like a 10-minute walk? 

A routine can help your child set daily expectations; try your best to stick to them. It will not always be possible, and that is alright. You are doing your best; again, ensure your child understands that. 

Bipolar Disorder
Self-Care

Self-Care Should be your top priority.

It can be tough to be a parent with bipolar, but there are some things you can do to make it easier on yourself – and your children. One of the most important things is to ensure you take care of your basic needs. That means getting up daily and making your bed, having a shower, and so on. 

Your children watch you all the time and learn from what you do. So if you’re not taking care of yourself, it sends them the message that it’s okay for them not to either. Plus, when you’re in a depressive mood, your bad mood can permeate the whole house – just like body odor! 

You don’t want your child to feel like they have to walk around on eggs the whole day; this will make them feel anxious about how you would react if they do something that they would typically do, but that it is not alright. Be consistent, and before you respond or if you feel like you will react unreasonably, take a break. Walk away and breathe. 

Stay Positive – It’s hard, I know!

Staying positive is one of the most challenging things you will deal with as a Bipolar parent. Focus on your strengths; this will help you stay motivated and keep going despite the challenges. Have a feeling calendar, discuss the different emotions you feel, and put how you feel on the calendar; this will help your child know how you feel that day and again that how you feel is not their fault. 

Focus on the small things that matter; if you manage to get out of bed for the day, that is a win, and if you can recognize that as a win, it can motivate you to stay positive for the day. Focus on just that one thing, and you will accomplish something for the day. Repeat that to yourself several times during the day. 

If you have managed to stay positive the whole day, be proud of yourself. Give yourself the recognition you deserve, and don’t feel discouraged if you cannot stay positive the entire day. Bipolar disorder is a complex illness; because you cannot control how you think, you can often feel like you failed your child. You are not failing your child; you are the best parent you can be. 

Parenting with Bipolar, How to cope

Negative Talk – How you are harming yourself.

You need to be aware of how you talk to yourself; the negative talk will not get you anywhere. Stop being cruel to yourself and criticize yourself if you did something to make your child feel anxious. 

Get some affirmations cards, choose one for the day and every time you feel like you are starting to talk negatively to yourself, take the card and repeat it to yourself a few times. This will ground you and divert your negative thoughts to something more positive. 

Often we are so cruel to ourselves that we can feel like we are not good enough and can do nothing right. Remember, you do not have to be perfect; you do not have to keep everything you feel bottled up. 

You do not have to keep up a facade of being perfect. Do not lie in bed all night, thinking about everything you did wrong during the day. Focus on all the things you did right for the day. 

Reach out for help

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, and this does not make you a bad parent; this is you recognizing that you are not having a good day, and rather than doing something that might make your child feel anxious, if not going to help with the feelings of quilt you have if you have said or done something that was not an appropriate reaction to the situation. 

Surround yourself with a solid support group, family, or friends. Ask them to take your child for a couple of hours, even if you want to nap, maybe have some alone time, or go for a coffee. I know it is hard to ask for help; it makes me feel like a bad parent if I say I need a break from my kids, but it shouldn’t. Not all family and friends will be supportive, so make sure you surround yourself with the people who understand your illness and the need for you sometimes to take a break. 

There are many resources and support groups for parents living with bipolar disorder. Reach out and get the support you need, especially from other parents living with bipolar disorder; this will help you feel not alone, and you might even get tips or more resources in understanding your condition and how other parents cope. 

Parenting with Bipolar disorder, How to cope

Parenting with Bipolar disorder can be challenging, but it does not make you a bad parent. With the tips above, you can start creating better boundaries and healthy coping habits, which will benefit you and everyone around you. Breathe; take one minute at a time. Yes, one minute at a time. Be kind to yourself; if you can get through one minute, breathe and get through the next. Sometimes that is all we have in us, and that is alright. You’ve got this; I believe in you!

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