Child & Adolescent Development: Overview

Review of "Survival Strategies for Parenting Children with Bipolar Disorder"

By George T. Lynn
Jessica Kingsley Publications, 2000
Review by Kendell C. Thornton, Ph.D. and Monique Thornton, M.S.W. on Dec 7th 2001
Survival Strategies for Parenting Children with Bipolar Disorder

            George T. Lynn’s book, Survival Strategies for Parenting Children with Bipolar Disorder is a valuable resource for parents and those in the mental health profession.  The author draws on his experience as a counselor to describe the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar Disorder co-existing with Asperger’s Syndrome, Tourette’s Disorder or ADHD.  He provides a clear, comprehensive perspective on effectively parenting a child with bipolar disorder.  He also explains what characteristics the disorders have in common and how they differ from each other.  Lynn is skilled at developing the differential diagnosis of disorders that often have significant overlapping characteristics.

            In every chapter Lynn provides a comprehensive case history, parent survival strategies and simple, straightforward tips for “surviving meltdowns.”  He includes a section on brain physiology, medication management and school success.  He gives practical advice about difficult decisions that parents often have to make, including when to call the police and the pros and cons of psychiatric hospitalization.

            Survival Strategies provides the reader with a different way to conceptualize how to parent a child with Bipolar Disorder.  Lynn places emphasis on both the child and the parent and discusses how each of their roles and behaviors impact the relationship.  He also acknowledges the significant role the larger system plays in the child’s treatment.  He explains that because the child lives in a larger system that includes family and school, they also have a responsibility to change or at least meet the child where he is, if we expect positive changes in the child with Bipolar Disorder.

            George Lynn also includes a unique description of the archetype of each of the disorders.  In each archetype he includes basic character traits, temperament, and what the child is driven by.  For example, the archetype for the child with Bipolar Disorder co-existing with Asperger’s disorder is “the Hermit”… a solitary, contemplative character who has been a feature of cross-cultural myths for thousands of years.  He is said to have learned powerful secrets about magic and mysticism from solitary and intense study.  Lynn builds on the archetype along with the diagnostic criteria by describing and including the “gifts” and “challenges” associated with each archetype.  He stresses the importance of addressing the “gifts” that these children have to offer.  To address the “gifts” of these children is to acknowledge that they and their families have potential to be highly successful.

            Survival Strategies takes a thought provoking spiritual/philosophical perspective on parenting a child with Bipolar Disorder.  Lynn provides case examples about how the parent/caregiver of the child has “quiet in her heart.”  “When you are ‘quiet in your heart’ you are experiencing empathy for your child and in so doing teaching him to experience it for himself.”  He clarifies that being “quiet in the heart” does not necessarily mean being passive; that sometimes it involves taking immediate action.  Lynn describes that if the parent has perspective and is calm and in control, the child will learn how to restore control in himself.

            Lynn doesn’t hesitate to challenge status quo and write from a true strengths perspective rather than the traditional pathology focused/medical model.  For example, in Chapter III, ‘Soothing the Hurt of Tourette Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder,” he asks the question, “Is Tourette’s a blessing or a curse?” and then answers by stating that “on a personal level, Tourette Syndrome may be seen as a pathway to a child’s self-awareness and self-acceptance on levels that are impossible for children without this challenge…the child is forced by his own nature to come to terms with who he is.”  Only through acknowledgment of the strengths of children with Tourette Syndrome can Lynn and the parents he seeks to help, recognize that Tourette Syndrome can be a blessing. 

Also in congruence with a strengths perspective is Lynn’s assertion that the child with bipolar disorder knows herself well enough to find the solutions to her own problems.  It is the adult’s role to acknowledge and accept these solutions as possible.

            With this book, George Lynn has made a major contribution in the area of parenting children with Bipolar Disorder.  He successfully instructs the reader on how to understand and identify the symptoms of these disorders and at the same time how to focus on the child’s strengths or “gifts.”  He delivers a well written and interesting book that provides realistic solutions to difficult problems, and hope to families of these exceptional children.

 

© 2001 Kendell Thornton and Monique Thornton

 

Kendell C. Thornton, Ph.D. is currently an Assistant Professor in Psychology at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. He earned his B.S. in Psychology from the University of Idaho, M.S. in Social Psychology from the University of Montana, and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Kansas. His current research interests include interpersonal relationships, with a focus on emotions, motivations, and self-concept.  Monique Thornton earned her MSW in 1993 from the University of Kansas. Kendell and Monique are the parents of a 5-year-old with Asperger Syndrome.

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