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Bipolar Disorder in Children

What’s the Connection between a Bipolar Child and a Broken Home?

What is the connection between children with Bipolar and a broken home? That’s a question to which many seem to have an answer. Sadly some believe that Bipolar kids aren’t really Bipolar, that the mother simply cannot handle raising her child on her own, and wants a quick fix to the problem by getting her child on medication. Perhaps in some cases, this may be true, but for the majority, I believe it is a very inaccurate assumption.

First of all, parents are faced with many challenges and struggles when they realize something is different about their child, whether the child has a physical deformity, a medical problem, or an emotional problem. Parents go through a grieving process, much the same as when a loved one passes away. They go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. Having a child with an emotional disorder can make it more difficult on the family to get through the denial phase, because there is currently no physical evidence to prove their child actually has the problem. The grieving process can quickly or slowly damage a relationship, especially if the parents are at different stages in their grieving.

Those families who are fortunate enough to stay together are often able to work together cohesively, and the disorder may go untreated medically, with much success. The parents work as a team, and the child’s poor behavior and mood swings go unnoticed to the general public. The child may be able to learn the necessary coping skills to deal with the extreme changes in moods. This does not mean the disorder goes away. It simply means that the child is able to get through his childhood without a label. As adults, they may or may not need medication.

For the parents who are less fortunate, their marriages end, and the mother is often faced with raising the child with Bipolar on her own. The mother becomes a single parent. She is not only having to continue through the original grieving process, but she then is faced with grieving the failure of the relationship, as well as having to support her child or children on her own, having less time to spend with her family. A child with an emotional disorder, such as Bipolar, needs a significant amount of attention and support from his parents, and this is quickly taken away. The broken home does not cause the bipolar, but the stress from the divorce could bring about a bipolar episode of the already apparent disability.

After a divorce, people may begin to notice the behavior problems in the child. No longer does the father watch the child with Bipolar during trips to town, because he is not there. The behavior problems may become more obvious to the public, because the child becomes more exposed to the public. The behavior problems were already there, but people may first begin to notice the poor behavior, and assume it was caused by the broken home or lack of good parenting skills on the mother’s part. Friends and family members may find it more difficult to be around the child, and eventually many of the support networks will disappear, thus making it harder for the mother and the child to cope.

The lack of moral and respite supports, along with judgments from people who do not understand the condition add tremendous strain on the social efforts of the family. Oftentimes, the mother begins to isolate herself and her child from the community in order to protect her child from judgments and criticisms. The mother typically does everything she can do, before making the much dreaded decision of putting her child on medication. So please, do not blame the mother. She is the one who is helping and caring for the child. She is many times the only one in the child’s life who has not abandoned him.

So, what is the connection between a Bipolar child and a broken home? A broken home does not make a bipolar child, but a bipolar child that is from a broken home may have more difficulties coping with the disorder due to the lack of a second parent in the home and a loss of some much need support networks.