This Bipolar Life: Terrible Twos? Try the Teen Years!

So…who here has teens? Do yours ignore you too? I used to think that maybe they just didn’t know I was here and started to feel bad and take it personally when eventually I woke and realized something. They’re just being TEENS! They are doing what teens are supposed to do. Just as they did when they were toddlers. Trying out the real world and coming home to comfort and reassurance. They push away and come back, push away again, come back again…just doing the cycle of growth that is part of their journey.

What I struggle with is trying to sync up my mood cycles with theirs. That’s the sweet spot in my little world. But it is still hard and for folks with bipolar it can be difficult to not internalize this as a deep rejection. It is important for us to inform ourselves and become aware of the realities of developing kiddos and know that their required processes don’t necessarily rob us of our relationships with them. In fact they can and do grow with time and in many cases those relationships even deepen.

So how do we as bipolar parents get what we need to make sure we are effectively parenting while also keeping their needs in mind? Do the research. Understand how their brains and bodies are wired. Remember that it isn’t all about us. That for kids it really is all about them, especially in the teen years. Their whole worlds become wrapped up in friendships and activities that have nothing to do with their parents, and that is as it should be. To an extent.

Eventually my poor kids have to deal with me just jumping onto the sofa and insisting on watching whatever they’re seeing. Forcing them to play the games they don’t want to play or coercing them to take the walk they’d rather not (and probably wouldn’t on their own) do. Sometimes they also have to deal with me asking hard questions about why they are so distant and then we realize together that usually it’s something I’m just misinterpreting. Easily done when you’re a bipolar parent.

Here is my wisdom, for what it’s worth: Be gentle and have high expectations. On all of you. You, the kids, your partner. Just be gentle but remember that it’s okay to ask others for help. Yes, even your kids. I don’t want to parentify my children early but I also realize that as caregivers in my world, for better or worse, it is in their best interests for me to be open to some extent about my feelings. If I’m feeling left out or misunderstood, I let them know. Usually they are willing to at least do something to help me feel better about our relationships and it’s generally something that’s easily changed.

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