Parenting and Bipolar Disorder

Author: Che’ Lang


Caring for a child comes with many responsibilities. Being emotionally and mentally stable is essential when teaching a little human the ropes to this complex life. It requires immense amounts of patience, and the ability to stay calm when your child needs help navigating their own big emotions. The job of being a parent could hands down be one of the most important roles a person could take on. You are responsible for a life that one day will contribute to society and be apart of the new world ahead of us. If this sounds like a challenging quest for someone who is already mentally and emotionally stable, just imagine being a parent who is suffering from a mental health condition known as bipolar disorder. If raising a child who will be successful in life requires a parent who has ahold of their own emotions, how could someone who has no control over their episodes of depression, hypomania, and mania have the mental capacity to raise a child? There is a way. There is HOPE that it, in fact, is possible to successfully be a parent who is living with bipolar disorder. Reaching out to loved ones and seeking professional help, being open with your child about your mental health diagnosis and being gentle with yourself are the three key components that it takes to be the best parent you can be for your child.

Reaching out to loved ones and seeking professional help for your bipolar disorder is essential if you want to be a stable and present parent. It took me 10 years after my diagnosis to finally accept that I needed to take the advice of my doctors and stay medicated daily. It was hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I have a chemical imbalance in my brain, and the only way to balance it out is from the use of medications; I could not fight this on my own. It took me even longer to realize talk therapy was also essential in understanding how to identify my triggers and then utilizing coping skills that I was taught by my therapist. Going through episodes is hard enough on their own, but when you throw a child into the mix, it becomes so much more crucial that you are of sound mind. If you do not have any loved ones you trust to help you find a medical professional, you can simply go to Get Help – International Bipolar Foundation ( Here you will find contact information for immediate help if you are currently in crisis. You can also find information on facilities in your area where you can begin your journey of stability and true peace of mind. This not only is going to change your life, but it will change the dynamic between you and your child for the better.

Explaining to your child about mental health issues, honestly, has no age limit. If a child is old enough to ask questions, they deserve to have an age-appropriate answer. For example, when my daughter was 3 years old, she noticed that I took medication every night before bed. When she asked me what the medication was for, I simply said, “Mommy needs to take medicine every night so she isn’t so crabby and tired!” As my daughter got older, she would notice other situations that would prompt her to ask bigger questions. For example, when I was going through a depressive episode, she asked me, “Why don’t we go outside and do things anymore?” At this point she was 8 years old, so I told her, “Mom is sick because my medication isn’t working right.” This then led into the conversation about depression, and the flip side of hypomania/mania. You can access the internet to show them a short video on what bipolar disorder is. See this link for a quick description on the highs and lows of bipolar disorder: What is bipolar disorder? ( This can open a more in-depth conversation if they are ready for it. Being open with your child about your bipolar disorder will show them that you respect them as a person and it will normalize mental health issues for them; ultimately, leading them to be open minded and understanding of others with mental health issues in the future.

If there is one phrase you could always have on repeat in your head, “be gentle with yourself” would be the one. I was a pro at talking down to myself daily for years. I never felt like I was doing good enough, and life, more often than not, just felt like a sick game that I could never win. A therapist I was seeing once noticed that I was constantly criticizing myself throughout our sessions, and one day she looked me straight in the eye and said, “You are so hard on yourself, Che’… you need to be gentle with yourself.” These words really struck me and left a lasting impression. It was almost as if she was giving me permission to just accept myself for how I am NOW. Of course, growth is one of the main reasons we are living this life, but it’s ok if you aren’t doing it perfectly. Progress not perfection. When your inner world is chaotic and filled with uncertainty, it’s easy to fall into negative self-talk. Being in the depths of a depressive episode is typically where that little voice speaks the loudest, but still can happen even when you are stable. Combating that voice when your body’s chemistry is all out of whack can be tricky. Writing notes that say, “be gentle with yourself” and sticking them to your bathroom mirror to visually see or listening to positive affirmations that you hear on the outside of your mind, are just two ways you can utilize external stimuli to convince your mind of something you may not fully believe internally in that moment.

Stable or not, parenting is hard. No one is the perfect parent, and EVERYONE struggles with their children at some point. We are human. People make mistakes. The important thing is to talk with your child after a heated moment and express your feelings to them and apologize when needed or invite them for a snuggle on the couch if you are feeling depleted. It’s never too late to start your journey of stability, and finally become the parent you know you can be.

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