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Telling your kid

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by GypsySoul » Sat Sep 24, 2016 6:26 am

Hello everyone! I was wondering if anyone had tips on how to explain bipolar disorder to my 9 year old daughter. I've told her I had this illness and she's curious but before I sat her down, I wanted to make sure I could explain it well.
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by Duckysmom » Sat Sep 24, 2016 7:00 am

I had this conversation with my daughter when she was 10 and I was first diagnosed. The most important thing is to let her know that nothing of your illness is her fault. I explained my moods shifting for no apparent reason and it being a chemical problem in Mommy's brain. I let her know that sometimes I would need time to myself if I was in a bad mood so I didn't say mean things that she didn't deserve because she was a great daughter. I let her know that I was ALWAYS available if she needed me though and she shouldn't ever be afraid to come to me because Mommy loved her more than anything. The biggest thing we did was come up with code words and sayings. "Mommy doesn't feel well today," did not mean I was coming down with the flu. It meant I wasn't sure what my mood was and I felt off. "Mommy, needs a few minutes," meant I needed to go out of sight for a little bit. I would go as far as to apologize in advance. "Mommy's having a bad day. I'm sorry if I seem grouchy. I'm not mad at you for anything." She understood the difference between me being BP and me being a parent (discipline). The biggest thing was to let her know that I was working hard to get and remain stable with my meds and therapy. I also talked about stigma and how lots of people didn't understand so we talked about how to decide whether to share the information with others or not. She told her best friend, who told everyone when they got in a fight and she dealt with some of the backlash from that. But having information helped her to explain it to her other friends, and since they all knew me (and all called me Mom and liked me) she got through.
It can be tough on the kids. I commend you for wanting to help your daughter understand. My daughter is 20 now and still remembers the conversation and was glad I was open to any conversations she wanted to have about my illness, discussions of my symptoms, where I was at in my stability. She still asks me, "Mom, can I talk to you about (fill in the blank)?" But I was always an approachable parent. If I couldn't handle the conversation or needed time to consider my part of it, I always made an appointment to talk later. "Let's talk after dinner so we can really talk about that ." And I never missed an appointment. Even when I was hospitalized and was not allowed to be alone with visitors, I asked for special exception when my parents brought her to visit and she wanted to talk privately with me. The chaperone sat outside the room far enough away to nit listen in but still able to see.
I know this is a long post, but I feel strongly about keeping children old enough to start understanding the information.
My daughter has even started explaining my illness to my 4 year old grandson. The "Grandma doesn't feel well," is understood by him. He may not be able to visit that day but he knows he can talk to me on the phone for a few minutes and as soon as I feel "better" I see him.
"Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one."
Bruce Lee
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by hal » Sat Sep 24, 2016 8:23 am

Wonderful explanation, DM!

I didn't discuss my BP with my two daughters until they were in their 30s. It didn't occur to me: one problem then was that I was full of myself. But recently I wrote "My Bipolar Life" for them and the rest of my family. (I posted it here in two parts not long ago.) They said it helped to know me better.
. . . all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone.
-- Tennyson
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by HVAC1 » Sat Sep 24, 2016 8:54 am

This is a perfect topic. I too have been considering letting my kids know.

My Dad has BP and it took my mom telling me at 34 to find out. I always thought he hated me. Now we have the best relationship ever. Caveat, He wasn't treated untill very recently.

My little boy is also starting to show signs of BP and I want him to understand before the inevitable happens.
I could not tread these perilous paths in safety, if I did not keep a saving sense of humor. Admiral Nelson
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by GypsySoul » Sat Sep 24, 2016 8:56 am

Thank you for the input. I'll be sitting down with her in the coming days to discuss all of this. I was always kept in the dark about family illnesses etc and don't want her to feel unimportant. I will definitely be incorporating the 'you can always come to me ' portion.
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by Duckysmom » Sat Sep 24, 2016 9:25 am

It's really important to stay at their level and not talk "over their heads." The science of the whole is unnecessary at this point. The "if one medication doesn't work, another could" is good. My daughter didn't know the difference between APs, SSRIs or mood stabilizers until she was in her teens. She actually checked out books on the subject from the library after my grandson was born so she could understand it better. (And I think she was afraid that the normal fluctuations of hormones after birth meant she was, too, but she was fine.)
She recently joked with me that during her psychology class, when the professor was talking about MIs, she thought she should be teaching the class because "that guy has obviously never lived it."
"Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one."
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by GypsySoul » Sun Sep 25, 2016 7:38 am

I love how open you've been with your daughter. That's exactly what I'm looking to do with mine.
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by MsSupial » Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:08 pm

Dudes. This is fantastic. Thank you so much. Both my 9 & my 1 yr old have been asking questions I did not know how to answer, & this helps so so much! Thanks for being the kick ass mommies/daddies/advice sharerers you are!!! :D
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