If my kid is fine in school, can they have bipolar disorder?
Many kids work so hard to keep it together at school, only to completely fall apart when they get home. I have heard professionals and families use that information as evidence that a child could not have bipolar disorder. In my experience, most symptoms are first noticed by the primary caregiver; in fact they may be isolated to the primary caregiver. Often, later in the progression of the disease the symptoms become more noticeable to the non primary parent, relatives and friends. Eventually the symptoms start spilling over into school. Symptoms of bipolar disorder and school don’t always follow this pattern but it is frequently the case.
If a child is doing well at school, and poorly at home it does not mean:
1) That he does not have bipolar disorder
2) That you are a bad parent
3) That he is in control of his behavior
Please understand that if your child has bipolar disorder or a mood disorder you don’t “just have problems as a parent”. Also, your child is not choosing to misbehave when they are around you because you are a bad parent. If anything your child trusts you enough to demonstrate that they are struggling.
Children exhibit challenges when the stress in their environment outweighs the skills they have. This is true across all diagnoses. So what does this mean?
Often children use all their energy up in school and have nothing left when they come home. Like all of us , they feel more comfortable to be themselves around those they are closest to. It's important to tap into gratitude that your child is doing well in school. Instead many parents use this as an opportunity to blame themselves.
Other children do not have the same success at school that they do at home. In these cases, the tips below should help.
If your child has bipolar disorder, the teacher is extremely important.
Things to do:
Remaining patient, open, and respectful when communicating with school officials is important.Your only focus should be on creating an environment within which your child can be the most successful.
Things to do:
Everyone is an expert on your child, aren't they? You've already heard from your friends and family everything you are doing wrong! You don't need a teacher to tell you too. I have trouble working with schools, because I lose my temper at the ignorant things they teachers and administrators say. A teacher has no right making comments about a child’s medication regimen, or diagnosis because they are not qualified mental health professionals.
Things to do:
Often accommodations for a bipolar child may consist of :
Homeschooling a bipolar child can be a good decision. One of the biggest challenges in my work with bipolar children is working with the public school system. I have had many failed attempts to work with school personnel to help them understand the issues bipolar children face.
Some of the key reasons for homeschooling children with bipolar disorder are:
Self esteem is a positive sense of self. Kids cannot develop a positive self concept unless they have success. Bipolar children and adolescents often struggle with simple tasks like getting out of bed to go to school. They struggle with learning, peer interactions, and teachers. Getting through a school day takes every ounce of energy they have. These children already know they are different from other kids. They know they take medicine, cannot control their emotions, and that their parents fight because of their behavior. Difficulties at school may add to their sense of failure. I have bipolar adolescent clients who still talk about how traumatizing kindergarten was. Because the symptoms of their diagnosis are often attributed to bad behavior, they are treated like bad kids, and you are treated as a bad parent! Homeschooling can build self esteem and protect them from harmful experiences. If a child is unstable a school setting can exacerbate their illness.
Schools can be completely inflexible with children who have bipolar disorder. Bipolar children may need modifications in their school day that the school is unwilling to make. Technically the school is required to make them, but can be a long fight, and sometimes it’s not worth it. Homeschooling allows you to start and stop whenever you want, to coach your child through difficult times, and to abandon teaching methods that don’t work. A regular classroom setting does not usually make these accommodations.
Bipolar children are that they are often very creative and talented. This is one of the reasons I love working with them. Traditional school settings do not always foster creativity. Most of these kids have incredible musical, writing or artistic talent. This needs to be fostered. Homeschooling a bipolar child makes it possible to capitalize on their strengths.
Homeschooling a bipolar child enables you to monitor your child’s nutrition intake. Bipolar children usually have food issues and sugar, caffeine and carbohydrate intake need to be monitored. Medications can side effects that make children ravenous. Feeding kids healthy food at regular intervals helps to stabilize their moods.
If your child is having rapid mood swings, homeschooling will allow you to monitor your child’s moods hourly, and adjust the demands on their attention concentration and energy level based on the patterns you discover.
When is Homeschooling a Bipolar Child not a Good Idea?
Let your child know:You believe their perceptions are true, and address them accordingly.It's not their fault they struggle with an illness, but they are still accountable to communicate with you about their thoughts and feelings. Understanding what you child is thinking and feeling is often the key finding the solution to specific school problems.Help your child to understand:
No one is doing them a favor. They have an illness and they are entitled to an equal education.