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Tips for Parenting a Child With Borderline Personality Disorder

Updated: Feb 26

The teenage years are a tough time emotionally. When kids start going through puberty, their changing hormones can wreak havoc on their moods. This weird emotional time in adolescence can last from puberty through the late teen years.

As the parent of a teenager, you might witness a range of emotions on any given day. They might be happy and singing along with the radio one minute, but soon they’re sad about something that’s going on with a friend. They might waver between being affectionate with you and screaming at you. It can be hard to keep up with the moods of a teenager.

Though teens need to learn to manage their emotions before they reach adulthood, it’s common for them to go through a period of emotional ups and downs. This makes it especially difficult to tell if your child’s behavior is based on typical teenage mood swings or if their behavior is a sign of a more significant mental health problem.

If your teen son’s behavior is reckless or gets him into serious trouble, he might benefit from attending a boarding school for troubled boys. Some teen mental health problems can be treated at home, but some require more decisive intervention.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is one of many mental health conditions that can cause lifelong problems if left untreated.

What is borderline personality disorder?

Borderline personality disorder is a relatively common disorder characterized by severe mood swings, low impulse control, and shifting self-worth. Teens with BPD tend to fear abandonment, and their behavior can be erratic. Their symptoms can often mimic other mental health problems, so it can be tough to diagnose BPD immediately.

Some common symptoms of BPD in teens include:

Fear of abandonment that leads to antisocial behavior. They might cling too tightly to friendships or be possessive of their friends and family. If they feel like they are being abandoned, they might behave aggressively or retreat.

Lacking a clear sense of self-worth or having a shifting sense of self-worth. They might seem passionate about a certain topic for a little while then shift to something completely different. They might think very highly of themselves for a while, then think they are worthless.

Exhibiting poor impulse control. Teens with BPD often act without thinking about the consequences. This can get them into serious trouble. Their behavior could include binge drinking, drag racing, doing drugs, having unprotected sex, stealing, and more.

Having severe mood swings. They might have raging anger outbursts or become extremely depressed. They might try to harm themselves due to feelings of worthlessness or be so happy that they do something fun but reckless. Their moods can swing from one extreme to another for seemingly no reason.

Exhibiting emotional reactions that are extreme for the situation. Teens with BPD tend to have emotional reactions that are far more extreme than a situation would typically warrant. This can cause problems in their relationships and drive away friends and family members.

Parenting a child with borderline personality disorder

As the parent of a teen with BPD, you need to understand that your child isn’t like other children. A lot of typical parenting strategies won’t work for your kid. Here are a few tips for parenting a child with BPD.

Learn about the symptoms. Your child’s BPD symptoms will likely cause trouble at home. Their behavior won’t make logical sense, so you need to learn about the symptoms and what causes them. Once you understand the root of the issue a little more, it will be easier to help your child learn to manage their emotions.

Get help. It’s tough, if not impossible, to treat BPD on your own. Find a licensed therapist trained in working with teens who have BPD. They can help guide your child through dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to gain control over their thoughts and regulate their emotions.

Be supportive. Teens who have BPD can be hesitant to go to therapy and admit that they have a problem. It can be even more difficult for them if they lack support from home. Encourage your child to get the help they need and help them apply what they’re learning in therapy.

Participate in family therapy sessions. Many local therapists and therapeutic boarding schools will include family counseling sessions in the treatment plan. When parents and siblings learn more about BPD symptoms and how to manage them, the family can work together to create more harmony. By talking through therapeutic techniques together, your family can help your child with BPD practice emotional regulation at home.

Updated 2/26/2024:

CHOOSING A THERAPIST: A great tool for parents searching for the right therapist for their struggling teenager can be found at a website called "CHOOSING THERAPY". They offer a large directory of therapists by state and insurances accepted.

Sundance Canyon offers free consultation to parents with questions about alternative options that may include our services if they are a match for your teenager's needs. Parents we help have a better knowledge of what next steps to take, if any, to intervene on behalf of their struggling teen. Call us at 866.241.3234 OR go to our CONTACT US page.

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