How to Explain Bipolar Disorder to Children

Close to two years ago, I was diagnosed for the first time with Bipolar Disorder. It came as a shock to my family and brought many changes to our lives – but not all were bad!

I remember the day that my mom sat down with my younger siblings and explained my disorder for the first time. She explained to them that sometimes I would be sick… sometimes I would get really sad (manic depressive) and it wasn’t any one’s fault. She suggested that when this happens, that they let her or my dad know and to try to make sure I knew they loved me. She also explained that sometimes I would get very very happy (mania); that sometimes I would do things that might not seem like me and that sometimes I would do things that might not be very safe. She suggested that when this happened, they should let my dad or her know and to treat me the same way, but to never do anything they feel might be unsafe… even if I say it is. My parents explained that I would take medicine so I wouldn’t get sick as often and that when I was, they would take me to my doctor to make sure I was okay.

That of course doesn’t cover all of my disorder or the symptoms related. The first time my manic episode came out in anger and rage, my parents sat down and explained to my siblings that it wasn’t their fault, nor was it mine. They were told that they were more than welcome to steer clear from me until I had calmed down. My parents explained that sometimes I might not mean to act the way that I was, but that I didn’t have any control over it. They also explained that the way I treated people during that episode was not okay, and that eventually once the episode had passed, I would come back and apologize. And I did.

That was my parent’s way of explaining my Disorder. My personal favourite way to explain Bipolar is using the rollercoaster analogy.

Everyone’s lives are like a rollercoaster. People have high and low days; good ones and bad ones. But they ride the rollercoaster and eventually it will even out. What makes people with Bipolar Disorder different is that we don’t have the seatbelts and the mechanics that keep the seats on the rollercoaster on track. Sometimes, our seatbelts give out and we fall down farther that we are supposed to. Sometimes the mechanics give way, and we flying through the air, higher than we are supposed to. Without the safety net at the bottom (friends, family, doctors, and other support teams) we can get severely hurt. But as long as we have somewhere safe to land, we can work to get ourselves back on track again. Things like medication and therapy can act like an emergency break or a second seatbelt. It helps us stay on track, even when things start to go wrong.

There’s tons of different ways you can explain Bipolar Disorder to children. I truly believe there is no right or wrong way. It’s different for every situation, every family, and every child. What are some ways that you used to explain Bipolar Disorder? I would love to hear them in the comments below.

12987234_488101244732219_5840221814499897607_nNichole is a Social Media Marketing Manager, student, daughter and friend. She’s working on her Marketing Diploma and has a Certificate of Christian Theology. She is an avid coffee lover who enjoys a good movie or book. She takes great joy in organizing, scheduling, and volunteering. Her passion for volunteerism extends specifically to those who are hurting, whether it is emotionally, physically, or mentally.

Nichole is certified to provide Mental Health First Aid, which means she can provide immediate support and guidance in a safe environment, comfortably have a conversation about mental health related issues and offer professional and other supports. This does NOT make Nichole a psychologist, or a counselor. It simply gives her the tools to direct people to the help they need.

You can follow Nichole on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, Linkedin and her Personal Blog.

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