Parenting certainly has challenges. So when a parent has a mental illness such as bipolar disorder, it adds another whole dimension to the family dynamics.

Bipolar Disorder can cause stress, guilt, anger, helplessness, and a range of other emotions, on top of the disease's signature manic and depressive mood swings. Children of parents with bipolar disorder are at higher risk for developing mood disorders. Part of the risk is genetic. Stressful life events, which may be related to a parent's mental illness, can further increase the child's risk.

 Learning to manage bipolar disorder in the family is critical.

As a parent, you need to know that bipolar disorder can be treated and managed. However, you must seek treatment and keep up with your medication and therapy to prevent bipolar episodes. Experts recommend you learn to recognize the warning signs that an episode is imminent so you and your family can prepare. They also suggest developing a daily routine. Creating structure and predictability in your life can minimize the likelihood of triggering mania or depression. Take care of yourself by eating properly and exercising regularly. Maintain a strict sleep schedule and minimize stress as much as possible.

Explain your condition in age-appropriate language and tell your child what you are doing to treat your mental illness. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMC) in Canada suggests that parents and children make an action plan before the child sees mood changes. This helps children make decisions about what to do when they are scared.

Madeleine Kelly, who suffers from bipolar disorder, is the author of Bipolar and the Art of Roller-coaster Riding. Her number one tip for managing bipolar disorder in the family is for parents to keep the lines of communication open. This means acknowledging your child's feelings and fears, allowing him to express them, and inviting questions. In fact, the CAMC says that one of the most important things kids can do to stay mentally healthy and happy is to be open about how they feel so they can get help solving problems or dealing with stress when they need it.

Kelly recommends finding a trusted adult as a backup to care for your child when you're unable and to help create a consistent emotional environment.

Angela Grett, another author, wrote a book from the perspective of a child growing up with a Bipolar parent, My Mother's Bipolar, So What am I? Through her website,, Grett is organizing support groups for adult children of bipolar parents. Her book or a support group may help you make sense of, and peace with, your experiences if you were raised by a bipolar parent.


Brauser, Deborah. "Children of Parents With Bipolar Disorder at High Risk for Earlier Onset, More Comorbidity." American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 56th Annual Meeting: Abstracts 18.2 and 18.1, October 31, 2009. Medscape Medical News. Web. 11 November 2009.processing....

Two Trees Media. "Parenting with Bipolar Disorder." Web.

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. "When a parent has bipolar disorder... What kids want to know." Web. 13 March 2008.

Smith, Melinda M.A., Segal, Jeanne Ph.D., and Segal, Robert M.A. "Bipolar Support and Self-Help:

Living and Coping with Bipolar Disorder." Web. February 2009. Web.