More and more kids these days are diagnosed ADD, ADHD, or Bipolar. There are biological reasons for this, and there are environmental elements which can soothe or aggravate the symptoms. It becomes increasingly easy to “react” to each mood swing rather than to develop a plan for different positions on the pendulum swing. Yet, preplanning is the best chance at teaching our children coping skills that will serve them throughout life. A child will learn better during a manic or hyper state—if the parent is able to stay strong and kick into a preplanned directed goal.
Some of the most creative, successful people in the world’s history are bipolar. (one small list of such people can be found at: http://www.bipolarsurvivor.com/famous.html) There have been rulers of countries with it, artists, authors, astronauts, musicians, ball players, financiers. The goal of parenting is to help assist our children to learn the coping skill that they will need to be successful at their level in the world around them as adults. Your child may choose to be the next Nobel Prize winner, Secretary General of the United Nations, or they actually may just have similar goals on an equally grand scale.
Keep in mind that adults, who are clinically required medicine to help curb the mania, often go off their meds because they enjoy the added energy and creativity. They like feeling euphoria, accomplishment, and a higher sense of capability and esteem. Yet un-channeled, that high energy can run rampant, and create a wake of problems left behind them which will increase the slower, depression side of the mood cycle.
When our children are young, we can take the time to help them identify these moods and teach them subtly– some ways to harness that energy, and utilize it in appropriate ways that still align with their desires. The following suggestions are modifications from the book The Ups and Downs of Raising a Bipolar Child by Judith Lederman and Candida Fink, M.D. These suggestions work well in the state where creativity & thinking out of the box is identifiable. This is not intended to treat other phases of mania such as rage, or extreme irritability & negativity.
1) Listen and Learn. Pick up on cues and subtle comments that can help you understand you child’s interest at the time. Ask questions about her desires and thoughts regarding hopes, dreams, goals, wishes. Use this time to bond and grow closer to the inner part of you child that is revealing itself.
2) Encourage participation in those desires in a physical way now (right now) if possible. Writing poetry or a mini-novel—even a script for a tv show, drawing, picking up and instrument and trying it, shooting photographs, making a video, painting and decorating his bedroom, sending a letter to the President of the United States, etc.
3) Ground the child in reality of the situation & current needs. When she has to do something RIGHT now, calmly and detached state in few words what needs to take place. Also validate her desires by adding “it would be nice to do that someday”. You may even want to converse further about that impulsive desire—again: listen and learn, while helping her attend to the responsibilities of the situation at hand.
4) Meet some of the desire while lowering the intensity for her. If he just has to go to a professional ball game (now!), try going through his card collection to see which players and positions he is most interested in. OR get on the computer and begin a card collection for him—let him help pick out the cards and teams. Have someone in the family take 20-60 minutes out to play that sport with him now. After energy has been released, maybe go to blockbuster and get a video where that sport is the theme.
The process to help a child deal with STRONG impulses is time consuming. Two points of reality are:
a) There really isn’t any way around the time consumption. Whether we deal with the desires head on or waste time arguing and trying to shift our children to something else “more reasonable”, the time expended will be relatively equal. register a business