The holidays are upon us and this means STRESS for a family with a child with a mood disorder. Decide now that you don't need to do it all. Do you really have to do the home advent ceremony every Sunday night, the Adornaments, the Illumination Parade, the parties, the drive thru light displays, throwing your own party, going to every holiday event there is, and still be able to enjoy Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever you celebrate? Just some tips:
We learned to never try to decorate the tree all together, but to let our bp kid have her own private decorating time to alleviate the stress and potential fights between siblings over whose ornament is whose, who gets to put up this and that. Just not worth it.
Cookie baking? Let the bp kid do it just with you some afternoon, again, by themselves in quiet.
Long drives to see relatives: Take two cars, trust me! The cost of gas is still worth it. One for you and the other kids, and one for dad and the bp child who again doesn't do well with noise and squabbling. Ipods and headphone for everyone or books on CDs, or movies on the laptop. Whatever makes those drives peaceful.
If you have a big family and need to stay in a hotel, get two rooms. The cost is still worth it. Get a suite if you can. Those rooms can feel claustrophic is you try to stick too many people in one room. We know. Choose peace over frugality right now and find the great deals on hotels.com.
If you have to fly, make sure your bp child gets to sit right behind the bulkhead where there is more room for their legs, no one in front of them to bother, and less claustrophobia. We learned this the hard way too.
Does your church do unnecessarily long Christmas Eve services lots of standing up and sitting down, repeated 20 times? Skip the service or find one that is much more kid friendly without a lot of formality. Don't feel guilty about it either. God knows your heart and knows your kid and knows their needs.
Christmas shopping? Leave the bp kid behind or take them really early in the morning or late in the evening (not in black Friday) to Target or WalMart on a day no one will be there (Mondays are great) and let them pick out presents for family members in the least crowded setting you can find. Or let them do it online. For that matter, shop online and save yourself the headache.
If your child is unstable and you don't think they will do well around your extended family, just stay home and keep it all simple. Everyone will enjoy the holidays so much more without meltdowns and you being so stressed out over what they might do. Focus on finding stability for your child which often means lots of doctor visits, not on traditions right now which you can resume when they are stable.
Make time for yourself: get your nails done, get a massage if you can afford to, schedule coffee with a girlfriend, a date with your husband (I know that one can be really hard to do), buy a new journal, go to Starbucks and write. Pick up a new book and read it cover to cover before you go to bed each night. Find a favorite Bible verse and post it on your fridge and absorb it every time you see it. Go Christmas shopping all by yourself when the malls aren't crowded and walk slowly. Go to the gym and work out for the first time in months. I just did that and it felt soooo good. Go to one of those paint your own pottery places and paint ornaments by yourself. That is fun and relaxing.
Get out and enjoy nature during this time. Bp kids often seems to relate better to the outdoors than to people. Go skiing, sledding, ice skating, or snowboarding, or hit an indoor water park, or skip Christmas presents and use the money to head to the mountains for snow, or to the beach for respite, or find hiking trails or bike trails and use them.
Finally, if you think your child needs to be hospitalized, don't hesitate because you think they will be scarred for life if they are in a hospital on Christmas Eve. There will be many more Christmases and New Years, and Hanukkahs. Do the right thing even if it breaks your heart. You will heal and so will they.
We have been doing this for almost nine years now. We have learned a lot the hard way. I wish someone had given me this advice a long time ago.
We wish you a peaceful Christmas and Hanukkah and New Years, as much as it can be.
God bless you, and may He grant you joy this season, not in having a perfect kid, but in His amazing grace, and in the small things and quiet moments for you!
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.