Here are my top ten suggestions based on our own personal experiences over the last seven years:
1. If you are driving longer than an hour to get to where you are going, try to take two cars and put the bp kid in one, and the other siblings in the other. You will not regret this. We had a truly awful experience one year that nearly permanently destroyed Caroline's relationship with her older sister. I think we all had PTSD from that drive. I still shudder at the thought of it.
2. If you are flying, try not to take the earliest flights out. With the sleep issues our kids have, letting them get a decent nights sleep and flying out mid-morning is better than waking them up at 5 for a 6 or 7 o'clock flight and have a grumpy kid the whole day. And try to give them the seats behind the bulkhead where no one is sitting in front of them (right behind first class). Claustrophobia is a big problem for most of these kids and being squished in coach leads to short tempers.
3. If the first flight you take has your bp kids frazzled and agitated and they seem like they might lose it on the next plane, skip the flight and hang out in the airport long enough to unwind before boarding another flight. A bp meltdown on a plane mid-air could be very traumatic for everyone and may even end in arrest.
4. Think less is more. Less travel, less holiday activities, less noise and over stimulation. We found that we could not take Caroline to the annual Illumination Parade in our town because the long wait, the noise, the crowds were too much for her. I used to try to do every Christmas activity available and now I am very selective.
5. If you are going to be around relatives who don't understand bp disorder in kids and teens, you may want to send them an email or letter explaining what they cannot control and some helpful ways they can make things less stressful for everyone involved. Like don't take it personally if my kid is having a hard time and they are rude to you. This isn't personal, it is their brain misfiring.
6. Don't forget the meds!!! Sounds basic, but you would be amazed at the stories. Take extra in case you get stranded in an airport or away at someone's house in a snowstorm.
7. Limit their carb intake. They will go sky high and then crash and burn, so set limits on sweets early.
8. If possible, stay in a hotel instead of with relatives so that your bp kid has a quiet room to which they can retreat in between family gatherings. For us, that means two hotel rooms, adjoining, with the kids divided up according to who gets along best with whom.
9. Do something outdoors, like a game of football, ice skating, walking a nature trail to give everyone a time to breathe and relax and get that energy out.
10. Don't stay at the relatives too long. I think two or three days is max when you are dealing with a bp kid, or Aspergers, autism or severe ADHD. Holiday visits can bring lots of stressors, and it is nice to save time for vacation at home too. We need a vacation from our vacations in a very bad way!!!
About our Daughter
I am mother to four wonderful daughters, ages 13, 15, 17 and 19, and wife to the greatest husband on earth. God has given us a special child to raise one who was diagnosed with early-onset bipolar disorder at the age of seven, though she showed signs of it from the age of fifteen months. She also has ADHD, Sensory Integration Disorder (sensory seeking), Dyslexia, and Non-Verbal Learning Disorder-NOS, all typical comorbidities for a bipolar child. She is in the very challenging teen years, and she is attempting a big public high school for the first time. In spite of the trials, she enjoys lacrosse, running, and reading and writing her own books. I will share with you the many joys and sorrows we have faced and will face in the future with the hope that you may find better understanding about this mental illness caused by both chemical and structural abnormalities in the brain. I desire that you will be encouraged by this blog if you are also dealing with a bipolar child. Thank you for reading and sharing in our journey.
How Did You Know She Was Bipolar So Young?
I wrote a long explanation of how we came to this bipolar diagnosis in a child so young under my post of March 19th of 2009. If your child or a child you know bears similarities, please seek out a good psychiatrist and don't wait for "things to get better." Often they will simply get worse, and the longer a child is unmedicated, the more damage their brain can accrue. Early diagnoses and treatment are key to providing these children with a chance at a successful life later as a teen and an adult.