As parents of kids with bipolar, we can help improve body, mind and soul. Here’s a start:
#1 Be the sleep gatekeeper
Arguably one of the most important factors to regulating moods is sleep hygiene. And since most children are not in a position to self-regulate, it’s up to parents to help keep things on track. Start by thoroughly explaining the importance of sleep so he understands the need for a strict bedtime routine. Too much sleep or not enough sleep can both be problems, but they‘re also good indicators of a new mood episode being triggered. This is where a sleep journal comes in handy.
#2 Encourage movement
It’s normal for children with mood disorders to have either low energy or too much energy levels. Try and educate your child about the proven benefits that exercise will have on her symptoms, especially if she’s feeling low. Team sports are a great way to combine exercise and socializing. If that’s not possible, and if your child is having a difficult time getting the motivation, it may be necessary to take the reigns: suggest a family hike or bike ride or play some catch. The best part is: everyone benefits!
#3 Manage the menu
Children taking medication may have specific challenges when it comes to controlling appetite—some may have an increase and others may lose it altogether. The important thing is to ensure they get the proper nutrients while keeping weight in check (a critical point in order to keep a balanced glucose metabolism.) If appetite is difficult to control, you can ask your child’s doctor for a referral to a pediatric nutritionist.
#4 Control stress
Stress is the driver of so many things when it comes to a brain-based disorder, and can rapidly destabilize the moods of children and teens with bipolar. Look for ways that stress can be minimized or avoided; be a role model and work at reducing family conflict. Also, be aware of stressful events outside of the home, like your child’s school or with his peers and talk to him about how to manage such situations.
#5 Practice mindfulness together
It’s extremely beneficial for parents to first control stress in themselves and this will naturally transfer to their children. Many parents have reported much calmer children and less mood episodes when they participate together in mindfulness strategies, such as yoga and meditation. Quiet hikes or walks in the forest can be an extremely calming and grounding effect as well.
#6 Maintain routine
Having regularity in activities and structure is calming for children and teens with bipolar disorder. As much as possible, avoid disruptions to their schedule and when it can’t be helped, as in a family vacation, try to find soothing activities to ease the stress during these difficult times of the day.
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