How do you cope with a child who has Bi-Polar Disorder?

April - posted on 04/20/2010 ( 3 moms have responded )

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Colt recently went to see his Psychiatrist for a follow-up visit and some of the things that the Doctor and Colt talked about lead him to believe that Colt has the starting stages of Bi-Polar Disorder. Colt is ADHD and has been on Meds for that disorder since he was 6. Please help with some techniques to get his focus elsewhere and his anger spurts under control.

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Heather - posted on 04/23/2010

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I agree with Carla- getting a second opinion is a good idea. I work with children diagnosed with various disorders, including Bi-Polar, and a true bi-polar diagnosis in a child is VERY rare. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen, as it obviously does, but seeking another opinion is a good idea. If you live in the US, I would seek someone who can do what we call a "comprehensive neuropsychological exam". This helps to sort out the various things going on with the child and help to determine the true cause without just slapping a random label on a kid because of behaviors, etc.



If your child IS struggling with Bi-Polar, a technique I've found helpful in my work is the creation of a "safe space".



Step 1: We teach a child how to recognize signs that they are becoming angry. Believe it or not, many children don't recognize that they are getting angry until they are too mad to control it any more. So, help him learn what his body does when he's mad- his cheeks feel warm, his stomach might feel funny, his muscles cramp, he might notice his fists clenching- draw his attention to those things.



Step 2- Create a space in your house/at school/wherever, that Colt knows he can go when he begins to feel angry, in order to calm down. I usually place a pillow/bean bag and a heavy blanket in a quiet place in the room. The child can simply say, "I need my safe space" and go and take however much time to calm down is needed.



Step 3: Explain the safe space to the child as a way to get anger under control safely- so that you and he both know that he won't do something that hurts himself or someone/something he loves. Talk about possible scenarios that might make him want to use it and make sure he understands to go BEFORE he feels really, really mad.



I hope this is helpful. Blessings to you and best of luck.



(PS. If you have ?'s about the safe space thing, I'm more than willing to disucss that with you more- message me.)

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Carla - posted on 04/21/2010

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The first thing that pops into my mind is--have you had a second opinion? Bi-Polar has become the catch-all for several different symptoms. I was diagnosed Bi-Polar and placed on several anti-depressants, including Lithium. This reduced me to a lump who would have jumped at the chance to feel ANYTHING, either a high or a low. I changed therapists, and when I told him of the diagnosis, he said 'that's ridiculous!' His sister was truly Bi-Polar, and her symptoms were dramatic highs and lows, to where she would spend days in her room. That was not me. I was going through empty-nest syndrome, husband worked nights, and I was alone. I spent like a wild woman! My mind has always worked non-stop, so that was not a new symptom, but the first therapist ran with the buzz-diagnosis of the day.

Spurts of anger, especially in ADHD are not uncommon in boys. I would certainly recommend another opinion. Why is he angry? Is he experiencing trauma? Supernanny was working with an ADHD boy who was struggling with homework and would tear it up in anger. Her answer, and it worked, was to spend time with him and help him work through the homework problem, not giving him the answer, but guiding him to it. Yes, it took time, but what time is spent in helping your child will decrease his anger and frustration, first in homework, but also, if branched out, you can help him work through problems at home, like taking out the trash. Walk him through the steps. Clean your room. First start by putting your dirty clothes in hamper, then pick up toys, then make your bed. You didn't do it for him, but you walked him through HOW to do it efficiently so it doesn't seem like a mountain of work.

Good luck, April, and God bless you both.

Elizabeth - posted on 04/20/2010

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Does he have any one that he trusts and can talk to on a regular basis? I have a very emotional son as well. He sees a child's councellor once a week. She has really helped him. He has conquered bed wetting, nightmares, and even stood up to one of the bullies at school with her help. He is rather timid alone. She has really changed his behaviors for the better. He has learned to express himself much better now, and his father and I have not had call to discipline him in quite some time. It's worth looking in to. I know that not all councellors are the same. You might ask your pediatrition for the name of a child's councellor she knows and recommends. That is how I found Ziggy's "secret keeper".

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