George Lynn, psychotherapist and author of Survival Strategies for Parenting Children with Bipolar Disorder was our guest. The discussion focused on how parents of bipolar children can best cope and effectively deal with the mood issues, behavioral problems and learning disabilities that are inherent with this mood disorder. We also talked about parents' self-esteem and being accused of "poor parenting," threatening behavior by bipolar kids, bipolar support groups, and having the other parent be non-compliant with bipolar medications.
David Roberts is the HealthyPlace.com moderator.
The people in blue are audience members.
online conference transcript
David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to HealthyPlace.com. Our topic tonight is "Parenting Bipolar Children." Our guest is author and psychotherapist, George Lynn, M.A., C.M.H.C. He has written Survival Strategies for Parenting Children with Bipolar Disorder.
Good evening, Mr. Lynn and welcome to HealthyPlace.com. We appreciate you being our guest tonight. I'd like to start with you telling us a bit more about yourself and your experience with tonight's subject matter.
George Lynn: Thanks, David. I have a psychotherapy practice in Bellevue, WA and work with adults and kids with Bipolar Disorder, Aspergers, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), and other neuropsyche issues. My journey started with my own son's diagnosis in '91 with several of these conditions.--Tourette's Syndrome, ADHD, Asperger's, and mood issues.
David: In your practice, what are you finding to be the most difficult issues facing parents of bipolar children?
George Lynn: The most difficult issues are the isolation of parents, the lack of understanding by schools and doctors, and the issues of the bipolar child.
David: When you say "isolation of the parents," what do you mean by that?
George Lynn: Kids with the rage, psychotic manifestations, chronic paranoia, and learning issues that come with Bipolar Disorder serve to distance other adults from the family. People who do not have kids like this do not understand but are often full of judgments about what needs to be done. Then parents start showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and no one understands why.
David: I asked that question because we have many parents of bipolar children write us saying they feel all alone and that there is no support system for them. I want to get right to some helpful suggestions. What would you suggest for dealing with the lonliness and isolation?
George Lynn: Thank you. First thing is to tell people who can listen what is going on. Do a write-up on your child for his teacher and other professionals, then develop assertiveness skills so you don't let people trash you with their advice. And deliberately cultivate your own interests, even if these do not involve your child.
David: What about dealing with the feelings that "you are the only one going through this?"
George Lynn: Well, now there is a proliferation of great bipolar support groups on line and local Bipolar support groups are forming all over. I tell people in my workshops who are computer un-savvy to get one and learn how to use it to link up to others. It will be a life saver! And attend local meetings of ChADD and other groups who will have parents with kids on the spectrum.
David: I remember seeing a program on parents of bipolar kids about a year ago. I'm sure several in the audience saw that program too. It seemed very stressful to be dealing, day in and day out, with the behavioral problems associated with the mood disorder. How does a parent constantly cope with that, or how can they better cope?
George Lynn: The most important thing is to develop an attitude of hardiness. This means that you come at the problem as a challenge, that the facts are friendly, that if you need help from the community you call for it, even if it's 911 or if you have to make a scene at the school district. Parents have to develop a certain "warrior" persona to deal with these issues, and they need to have a lot of love in their own lives and a sense of purpose. Oftentimes, Dads get to go to work and escape the major day-to-day stress. Mothers need to be very vocal about their need for help. Dad may have to take time off occasionally. If push comes to shove and other measures, such as residential placement, are indicated, these need to be pursued. Everybody gets to live!
David: We've talked a little about what parents can do to help themselves. What are some behavior management tools for working with their bipolar children that might prove effective?
George Lynn: Essential number one: Kids have to be willing to talk to a therapist who can help them. They have to believe that person can help them escape the inner feeling of chaos and get a handle on their reactions, as well as develop awareness of mood shift and normalize. I use a lot of scales, measurement devices, and body awareness techniques, depending on the age of the child, and I tell parents that stability is the most important factor in their child's life. They absolutely have to insist on it, no violence tolerated. We listen, but will not let you do violence to us. We know you are suffering. Your brain is having something like a seizure of emotion. You are not insane. We will help you, but you need to pitch in.