As a parent, how can I get my child to talk about his bipolar disorder?

Ms. Julie A. Fast
Mental Health Specialist

Moms and dads have very different relationships with their children. I’ve learned this through years of coaching. The mother is often the one who talks about the illness, asks the child to take medications, worries out loud about his future, gets anxious and upset if the child won’t talk and is often the one who does the most research on bipolar disorder.

Fathers naturally care about their child exactly the same as mothers, but the interaction with the child is often very different. I’ve found that dads talk less about the illness, have more physical contact and are more likely to let a son with bipolar disorder have ‘space’ so that he can get better.

There is nothing wrong with either one. The goal is to find what WORKS in terms of getting your son to talk.
Here are four strategies to open a conversation with your son:

  1. Go over the bipolar questions on this site. I have answered many. Keep it simple as you don’t want to overwhelm yourself. Read my basic book on bipolar disorder. Do not read memoires as they tend to be about negative experiences.
  2. Be brave and use the real words you want to say to your son: bipolar disorder, medications, hospitals, mania, depression, anxiety, treatment. If he refuses to use the words, you can say, “These are the words I need to use. I respect it if you want to use other words. This language is for me.”
  3. Keep away from talk regarding the future (and past) related to school and work. These are topics to discuss when he is better.
  4. If you do have a more physical relationship with your son such as fishing, watching games, mechanical projects, etc, these are good times to talk.  Bringing up the illness while you are both using your hands can really take away the stress of talking.

These are a few basic tips you can use to open a conversation with your son about bipolar disorder. This will build a foundation you can then use to talk about treatment.

A lot of men with bipolar don't want to talk about the illness, but they do want help. Your goal is to make it easy for your son to talk.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.