With Bipolar Child, New School Year Brings Back Old Concerns

August 23, 2011 Angela McClanahan

Tomorrow, my children will both go back to school.

(Excuse me while I do a little dance and high-five myself for having lived through--and allowed them to live through--this very long summer.)

The school supplies are ready, the new clothes are in the washing machine as we speak--all in anticipation of a new school year. "Back to School" night was Monday, and we've already met Bob's fourth-grade teacher and know who his classmates are. We are completely prepared.

Or are we?

Learning About My Bipolar Child All Over Again


Every year, I worry about Bob going back to school. A new teacher who doesn't know him (although he/she may certainly know of him), doesn't know about his particularities and preferences. Of course, this is the same for all parents, but the difference is, my child has bipolar disorder and ADHD and not knowing Bob's idiosyncracies could lead to a lot more than hurt feelings.

Before Bob's last two school years, I found out in advance who Bob's teacher was, and sent that teacher my standard "Bob 101" email. I haven't done that yet this year because I'm afraid it might scare some of the newer, less experienced teachers (I think this may have been the case last year), and this year, his teacher is only in her third year of teaching.

Aside from being pretty green, Bob's new teacher is obviously pregnant and, judging from size, will likely be taking leave right around the holidays--in other words, right about the time Bob starts to spiral downhill. We went through a similar situation in first grade--his teacher's attendance was unpredictable the first semester, and she went on indefinite leave in January. Coincidentally or not, first grade was Bob's worst year to date.

Children with Mental Illness May Have Difficulty Adjusting to New Teachers, New Routines

My initial reaction was to ask to have Bob moved to a different class. But having considered the alternatives--a brand new, first-year teacher and a class full of names I recognize from last year (i.e., troublemakers), it seems the current arrangement is probably the lesser of the available evils.

It may end up being fine--Bob may adjust perfectly well to his teacher being gone and having a substitute if he knows it's going to happen well in advance. It could also end up being disastrous, but there's not a lot to do about it now.

So tomorrow, I'll take Bob and his bag full of supplies to school. I will greet his teacher and make sure she has my name and number in case anything comes up. And I will cross my fingers and brace myself for another year.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2011, August 23). With Bipolar Child, New School Year Brings Back Old Concerns, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 24 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

August, 23 2011 at 3:01 pm

Good luck with the new school year! I know how hard it can be, my son has what they say is school phobia. He gets terrible stomach aches in the morning (obviously anxiety) and missed a lot of days last year. He has been seeing a new therapist this summer so I hope it will help with his not wanting to go to school.

Alistair McHarg
August, 24 2011 at 10:06 am

Hi Angela: Sounds you are a good candidate for Mood Minder from Kronko! - Kidding aside, Bob is SO lucky to have a mom who is plugged in - and knows the difference between being supportive and enabling. (I had the unpleasant experience of watching a young man with severe ADHD reduced to a "career victim" by an overcompensating mom.) Kids need small victories. They need to be allowed to make a mess and clean it up - and build self-esteem in the process. Watching young "Mark's" self-esteem plummet as he messed up over and over and watched as other people did things for him was heartbreaking. - Good luck to you both. Alistair

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