Question: Our teenager has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. We’ve tried everything we can think of to help her, but so far our efforts haven’t had much of an impact. Do you have any advice for parents in our position? 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. 

Need for specialized treatment

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.

Arm yourself with knowledge

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 go out and get the appropriate treatment. In the process, you can also learn some specialized behavioural interventions and incorporate them into your parenting. With the proper medication, you’ll be surprised how quickly your daughter will be enabled to manage her depressions and mood swings. The result will be 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 Canada’s counselling department. Our staff can provide you with a list of family counsellors and psychiatrists in your area who specialize in treating adolescent bipolar disorder. Our counsellors are available Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific time at 1.800.661.9800. They’ll be happy to assist you in any way they can.

© 2010 Focus on the Family. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

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