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When to tell children...

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by Jemane » Sat May 13, 2017 2:32 am

When Is the right time to tell the kids I'm bipolar? They are 14, 10 as 6 and they wouldn't even know what bipolar is let alone that I have it.
They enjoy my highs when we dance around the lounge room and make them late night desserts and they get sick of my lows when I spend a lit of time in bed.
When I went to hospital last year after I overdosed we certainly didn't explain the reality of why I was in hospital. They haven't brought it up since.
I'm just feeling like the oldest is getting to the age where the question might come up and I'm not sure what to tell her.
Anyone been through this before?
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by AvantGarde » Sat May 13, 2017 2:39 am

I don't have kids but was in the situation of being the child of a parent who kept going inpatient and I didn't know why. My mother and sisters only told me about my father's illnesses when I was 14 and by then I felt I should've known earlier, I already suspected and it made me feel inadequate and incompetent in helping anyone, they made it clear it wasn't my job to help but only to be a child, at the same time I felt the weight of people lying to me, even if it was to protect me.

My mother now tells me that she regrets waiting so long, that it was natural to know why my father behaved the way he did and I would've understood sooner.

Children are much smarter than we give them credit for. I was the step mom of a 5 year old and he understood perfectly I had some sort of disorder and even asked me if I did.
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by Jemane » Sat May 13, 2017 2:42 am

Wow, that's really telling that you felt that way. I wonder if I need to sit down with my oldest and explain it to her. Sounds like it would be a good idea.
I'm sick of keeping secrets anyway.
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by cottontail » Sat May 13, 2017 2:44 am

Hi Jemane

My three are older but they lived through me having a total mental breakdown and severe mania undiagosed at the time. Personally I think kids should be told in an age appropriate way. Like a talk for example about how babies are made suiting the ages of the children.

Seeing me acting strangely and being so sick was the worst for my youngest. She ended up with severe depression not knowing what was happening with her mum. She was 17 at the time (right on HSC) wonderful timing. It has taken her several years of therapy to get over what happen to me.

Don't leave it just make it age appropriate.
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by AvantGarde » Sat May 13, 2017 2:50 am

I think that's a good idea. I'm a bit harsh with this, I don't think children must be kept in the dark like it's a dark secret, only breeds stigma, it's what happened to my family.

They should know how to respect your boundaries, don't tell people because it's your issue, but to be able to talk to someone about what's going on with them, because they also feel bad, not just the parents.

Like I said, children are much smarter and understanding than we give them credit for.

You can come up with a metaphor, like the black dog for depression. "I'm with the black dog today, honey", and they'll understand. They can even google it and understand depression, how to deal, etc.

14 year olds nowadays are really grown up!!
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by Jemane » Sat May 13, 2017 3:06 am

I'm glad I asked this question. I think I should talk to them, especially the oldest. I might wait till a good time like taking her out for coffee or something.
How much do I tell?
I mean, should I tell her that I tried to suicide? I'm worried that it will make her feel insecure.
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by cottontail » Sat May 13, 2017 3:12 am

I wouldn't mention suicide ... I would just keep the conversation light and casual without getting too heavy.
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by AvantGarde » Sat May 13, 2017 3:14 am

No, I wouldn't mention suicide or self harm or anything like that either.

Just tell her about the highs and lows, that it is an illness, that is being taken care of by doctors, that if sometimes you're odd or off it's not her fault.
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by Duckysmom » Sat May 13, 2017 4:38 am

There is post on this subject somewhere else but I couldn't find it. There were some good insights on how to tell your children. I told mine when she was 10 when I was finally properly diagnosed and put on the right meds. She's 21 now and well adjusted for the most part, but her first 10 years were so hard on her. I think it's important children know about BP in a parent. Kids tend to internalize things and blame themselves for the ups and downs of a BP parent. Mine was very relieved to know it wasn't her fault.
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by skizzedkid » Thu Jun 01, 2017 5:58 am

My daughter is 15. As I read this post I asked her if she thinks that she knows everything that she needs. Yes. But is there anything else you need to know? Is there anything else you want to talk about? "Mom, I am busy playing SIMS."
Well. Ok, then. That seems to be covered.
It is a bit more difficult with my son, as he is autistic, and has a learning disability. He needs things explained in a different way, and his understanding will always be limited.
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by Chlova » Mon Jun 19, 2017 5:26 am

My grandchildren are 10 and 13. My daughter has BP but has been well for many years. Unfortunately after a lengthy family member illness the stress of this perhaps caused the BP to return. The children know things aren't right. I have just told them that the stress of the family illness for which their mother had helped out greatly with for many months had made her ill and tired out and we were all working hard to get her better again. I did not feel it was my place to say anything else and I certainly didn't know what to say either. They seemed OK with the explanation but I must admit I feel bad and hope they will understand. My daughter will tell them when she is feeling better.
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by Redwhitblu » Tue Jun 20, 2017 5:24 pm

We talk openly about our health in my house. We mostly talk about our medications, dr visits etc. We have very general discussions abt it around our kids. I have Bipolar and husband is a veteran with PTSD. So we are both in treatment. We wouldn't talk abt suicide though, but it's not been a major issue for either of us in years anyways.

Would you be open about having any other disease in front of your kids... like diabetes, or epilepsy? I find no shame around my kids in having the disease of bipolar. My dad had it, and hid it from me my whole life which really hasn't helped me much. This disease is highly genetic, and the chances are decent that your offspring can inherit it. So I say your better off to be confident in who you are and not show any shame in front if your kids for living with this disease. Show them you can still live a good life and take care of yourself! :D
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by Jemane » Tue Jun 20, 2017 9:05 pm

Have to admit I still haven't told them. My 14 year old saw me getting my thyroxine dose out of the fridge the other night and said 'I didn't know you took tablets mum' and I thought 'woops, I've really kept you in the dark.'
I told her my thyroid wasn't working but left it at that when I really should have told her about bipolar. I'm not sure what I'm so worried about. I don't want my kids to think I'm crazy. I've done a pretty damn good job of hiding it all from them (as well as the rest of my community) and I'm so used to hiding it.
We're about to go on holidays together so perhaps there will be time for a conversation then. I certainly don't want them to turn around in years to come and be upset with me for hiding it from them.
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by Blake's Poisontree » Thu Jun 22, 2017 2:38 pm

I have thought about this and was going to wait until my daughter is older (she is almost 10 now, my son is 7) but now I wonder if I shouldn't do it sooner. But I don't know how. Apart from 2-3 Skype sessions a month I have virtually no contact with them. I never got the chance to tell them anything after my ex had me committed, part of my release conditions was that I wasn't allowed to go back home. They know that I was very sick and that I had to go back to SA, I think they understood that but will BP mean anything to them? I don't really know much about small children's understanding of such things, I don't really know them either .... omg that is such a horrible thing to admit ...
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