In our son’s situation, we haven’t had “the talk” with labels and all. Instead it’s been an ongoing conversation, addressing symptoms as they appear. In the beginning our son would ask what was wrong with him, unfortunately we had no idea. When I look back, I think he was the one with the answers. At the age of 7, he would explain that he had two brains and that the bad side would take over the good side and make him do bad stuff.
At the age of 10, I’ve overheard him explain that he has an anger management problem. He tends to blame his mood challenges on his “anger”.
As he got older and we became wiser, we would help define his experience. For example, when he started to have episodes where he would cry for unknown reasons, we would explain that it was his “brain making mistakes”. When things became more intense, we started to give descriptions for his reactions, such as, “don’t be scared, what you’re feeling is anxiety, this will go away very soon”, or when he couldn’t sleep and was very impulsive, we explained that his brain was making him feel “too much energy” and then suggest that we go for a walk.
Once, my son asked me if he had bipolar disorder, because he’s seen books such as The Bipolar Child laying around the house. Since we don’t have an official diagnosis, we told him that the doctors didn’t know, but they believe he has a mood disorder, explaining that his brain makes mistakes about his feelings to different situations, making him feel angry or sad when he shouldn’t. We explained that this is something he was born with and it wasn’t his fault and that he should never feel ashamed about it. We also explained that his brain was still growing and changing and it was possible that his brain could outgrow this and if it didn’t, he would always have doctors and medication to help him.
I’ve also pointed out that his creativity may be connected with his mood disorder. I’ve explained that the unique way his brain is wired may also be the reason for his special ability to build and make cool stuff. I remind him that as much as he has challenges that others don’t, he has creativity like no other.
I don’t know if we’re handling this the right way or not, but I believe there are many ways to have this talk with your child. For us, it’s an ongoing conversation that is open and honest, while trying to remain age appropriate. I would love for you to share your experience and wisdom in this area, so please tell us, how did you tell your child?