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Parenting A Bipolar Child, Not Quite A Child, Not Quite An Adult

Question:

I have a 17 yr. old daughter, 1st semester at community college on scholarships. She’s decided not to take all of her meds. She takes concerta but doesn’t want to take Seroquel as prescribed. I found a complete bottle of unopened Welbutrin. She has made poor decisions with dating guys and started bringing them to my house while I’m at work. I want her to be successful with school, and be safe. In other words, I want her taking her meds so she make better decisions. She has a doctor and therapist. What’s the point of scheduling appts with her therapist if she’s not going to keep them? She recently got violent with me and broke a window. I want to just change the locks when she turns eighteen. I do love her but, she leaves the house and I have no idea when she’s coming home.  I’m fearful that when she turns 18 I won’t be able to get the services for her (i.e. RTC) that I did when she was younger. I can’t make her take her meds and I can’t reason with her about protecting her future. I try to drop her off for her class nearly every morning but, she won’t even get up on time for that. I need my job and can’t continue to support her in that matter or put my family at risk. Thank you.

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Answer:

Hello Frazzled Mom,

You do have your hands full with your 17 year old daughter. This reminds me of an old joke about a parent who consulted Sigmund Freud back in Vienna during the 1920s. The parent asked if Freud would give her child psychotherapy. The child was also about 17 years old. It is reputed that Freud said, “Sure, I will see him. Bring him to me in ten years and I will be happy to work with him.” (Grin). I don’t know if the story is true but the concept behind it is true.

You see, you have two problems with your daughter. One problem is her diagnosis but the other problem is that she is an adolescent.

My impression from what you write is that your daughter is not simply rebelling (natural for her age) but is also testing the limits to the maximum degree. It seems as though she has you completely “bamboozled” or intimidated. You are the parent. I assume her father is there also, but, even if you are a single parent, you must set limits and boundaries.

What do I mean by limit setting?

1. She must have a curfew. She lives under your roof and must abide by house rules and that means that she must be home by the time you specify. It’s important that you set a reasonable time because she is 17 and should be expected home by a time that is not too early and not too late.

2. Alarm clocks are a wonderful invention. She needs to set it and get up for school to be on time. After that, whatever happens, is her business. You leave for work. As one psychiatrist explained to parents of teenagers, “the bus leaves at….o’clock, period!!!!!” By the way, I suggest you completely stop driving her to school. She is too old for that.

3. Her scholarship is her business and if she loses it then she has to take the consequences.

4. You are quite correct, you cannot and should not force her to take the medications. That is also her business. Let her take the consequences of not taking her medications.

5. If you are paying for her psychiatrist and therapist and she is not attending, stop paying and cancel. Tell her that and let it be. Let her take the consequences.

6. The next time she becomes violent, and that includes threatening you with violence, throws and breaks anything in the house, hits you or anyone at home, call 911!!! Immediately.

Mom, I regret having to tell you this but, in my opinion, you are being too easy on her and your are too involved in her life. Yet, at the very same time, you are allowing her to get away with anything she wants.

She is not a child and must learn to be responsible for herself, diagnosis or not.

P.S. She should pay for the broken window.

Good Luck

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