Parenting a Bipolar Teen

Do you have any advice for parents who are dealing with the challenge of raising a teenager who struggles with depression and bipolar disorder? We've tried everything we can think of to help our daughter, but so far our efforts haven't had much of an impact. Can you offer us some hope?

Don’t lose heart. There’s nothing wrong with you or your efforts to help your teen. Some children simply have severe psychiatric problems that don’t respond to normal parenting techniques. This includes kids who are diagnosed with ADHD, oppositional-defiant disorder, pervasive developmental disorders like autism, and bipolar disorder.

Children who fall into one of these categories need specialized treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Many of them also require medication. They’re suffering with disorders that are physiologically based, and as a result they need something more than simple encouragement, discipline, or a good talking-to. That’s why parents who have a child with undiagnosed ADHD or bipolar disorder often feel frustrated and defeated. That frustration can be compounded when well-meaning friends, relatives, or teachers imply that the child’s problems are due to poor parenting. Because the underlying disorder hasn’t been identified, these moms and dads often become hopeless and even begin to resent their child.

You’re fortunate, then, to know exactly what you’re facing. Many parents actually feel as if a heavy weight is lifted from their shoulders when they finally receive an accurate diagnosis of their child’s condition. Armed with the knowledge that your daughter is struggling with bipolar disorder, you can pursue the appropriate treatment. In the process, you can also learn some specialized behavioral interventions and incorporate them into your parenting. With the proper medication, your daughter should be able to manage her depressions and mood swings quite well. The result can include a new outlook on life and a new level of efficiency at school, at work, and in her interactions with family and friends.

We suggest you begin by calling Focus on the Family’s Counseling department. Our staff can provide you with a list of family counselors and psychiatrists in your area who specialize in treating adolescent bipolar disorder.


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When Someone You Love Suffers From Depression or Mental Illness

Mood Swings: Understand Your Emotional Highs & Lows and Achieve a More Balanced & Fulfilled Life

Is Your Teen Stressed or Depressed?

Hart Institute

John Rosemond: Parenting with Love and Leadership

Bipolar Disorder: A Brief Overview

First Steps: What to Do Now That Your Love One Has Been Diagnosed With a Mental Illness

Your Child’s Emotions

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