How can I help my niece?

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-07-2011
How can I help my niece?
3
Thu, 07-18-2013 - 4:51pm

I really need some advice.  My teenage niece is bipolar, and has been acting very unstable lately.  She's been fighting a lot with my sister, objecting to the normal rules of the house that have always been there, generally just not getting along with anyone and being unreasonable.  She is threatening to run away, which has us all extremely worried.  She has been trying to stay in contact with a guy that isn't good for her, and we are worried that he will influence her further.   As her aunt I want to be there for both of them, is there anything I can say or do that can convince my niece that she'd be making a huge mistake in leaving?  I just don't know what to do and how I can help, I'm at a total loss.

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Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Fri, 07-19-2013 - 8:51pm

Its good that she is still a minor so the parents have more options. The Pdoc definitely needs to be made aware. 

In what way is the boy not good for her? My dd always was drawn to the bad boys, and the best approach seemed to be to draw them into the family instead of trying to keep the kids apart. Much older guys, guys that just want to take advantage, etc generally won't put up with the family atmosphere and jump ship. And its important for guys to see that the girl has a family who cares and to whom they are accountable for her well being while she is with him. The bad boys look great within the context of the peer group but within the context of the family they sometimes lose their luster, and the girl can usually see it without the parents having to say a word. And sometimes when the parents get to know him, he's not actually so bad. Just a suggestion for your sister to think about.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-07-2011
Fri, 07-19-2013 - 2:18pm
She's 16 and on meds, although she balks at taking them sometimes. I'm assuming that my sister has talked to them about it, I have not specifically asked her but I'll bring it up. That's what makes it scary, with being bipolar it's hard to figure out if it's normal teen behavior or something more serious. She's not on birth control currently, this is the first guy she's shown any interest in. Thanks for your suggestions, I'm going to spend some time over there this weekend. Maybe I'll see if my sister wants to take the younger kids to the movies so I can spend some time with her. They probably both need a break from each other. Thanks again!

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Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Thu, 07-18-2013 - 8:30pm

How old is your niece? Things would be handled differently if she's 14 vs 18.

Is she on medication, and if so, is she taking it on schedule? Has the Pdoc been notified that her behavior is more unstable?

Some of the behavior is within the range of normal for a typical teen---fighting with mom, liking inappropriate boys, wanting to run away when she doesn't get her way or is expected to be responsible. Then of course the bipolar can make her more impulsive and more sexualized, so its important to figure out if she's making typical teen threats. Just wondering, is she on birth control?

It could help her the most if you are just there for her: to listen without judging, to ask rhetorical questions (that she probably cannot answer now but will get her thinking), to be a confidante if that's what she wants (if you could promise to not tell her mom). Sometimes what teens need most is for someone to listen and try to understand without giving unsolicited advice or "trying to control her".