Community Offenses

A run-in with the law is an additional life stressor neither you nor your child needs. It is imperative that you keep all lines of communication with your child as open as possible and that you exercise your parental authority where limits and permissions are concerned (as discussed in Chapter 13). If your child is known to be aggressive or impulsive, is not following a plan of wellness, or is diverted from such a program by weak parenting, poor supervision, or overwhelming outside influences, he may be at risk of getting involved in unseemly activities.

Possible Infractions

Law enforcement officials may detain, take into custody, or arrest your child on the suspicion of, or involvement in, a number of activities. These may include the following:

  • Breaking community curfew

  • Underage drinking

  • Drug use

  • Indecent sexual assault against another child

  • Other forms of assault, which could range from causing serious physical injury with a weapon to punching and slapping

  • Forms of harassment such as pushing, shoving, pulling hair, or making threats against others

  • Disorderly conduct, such as making unreasonable noise or demonstrating violent, aggressive behavior against others

  • Shoplifting

  • Vandalism and property destruction

  • Acts of road rage; recklessly endangering others while driving

  • Stalking

The teen who is bipolar and not well supervised, or not receiving an adequate plan of treatment, may be drawn into any of the above illegal activities. In extreme situations, teen boys and girls have accepted money in payment for sexual favors, which may constitute prostitution, or have taken money or goods in exchange for the sale of their prescription medication to others. Where drugs or molestation accusations are concerned, special vice units may investigate the circumstances. On occasion, an exasperated parent may instigate a child's arrest, believing that this kind of tough-love approach will be the answer to their kid straightening up. However, this approach fails to account for bipolar disorder as a mental-health issue, often within a child's very limited control. It also has the potential to strain or estrange parent-child relationships, causing further damage and mistrust.

Alert!

Each state defines the act of stalking differently. The teen who is bipolar may feel that she has an entitlement to control or own someone else, which may lead to stalking behavior. The Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime has a Web site at www.ncvc.org. It provides state-by-state and federal statutes, help for victims, stalking profiles, statistics, and other resources.

Parental Accountability

Depending upon the severity of the activity, there may also be investigation into your liability for your child's activities, if such standards are not already in place locally. This may be done on a case-by-case basis, but if your child has a reputation with your area police force, you may experience fewer leniencies than a parent whose child has committed a first-time act. Your accountability could range from being forced to make restitution to being held responsible for facilitating your child's actions or at least being aware of their potential but failing to deter them. In cases of blatant negligence, the local child protective services agency may be called in to assess the situation. This could mean your family's entanglement with a whole other service system, which may otherwise be avoidable through sound parental judgment and fair discipline.

The flip side of these situations may occur when your child has made unfounded accusations against you by calling the police or dialing 911. Your child may do this in a moment of grandiosity (pulling rank or authority over you), or in overreaction to your “unfair” disciplinary measures. You may recall the story from Chapter 4 of the girl who, in the throes of manic grandiosity, made accusations of sexual abuse against her own father, not once but on several occasions. The father was found innocent, fortunately, but standard procedure dictated that an investigation was required after each accusation.

In such circumstances, having proper clinical documentation of your child's diagnosis and course of treatment may prove valuable to substantiate against any invalid accusations. Additionally, any mood-symptom charting that reflects your child's bipolar trends or cycles may be useful as backup documentation. (In other words, can you prove that your child's accusations come during a spike in mania?) As another precautionary measure to curtail this type of situation, you may wish to forge a partnership with a number of individuals who can be supportive during such circumstances before anything similar occurs. This may include some or all of the following:

  • Being in regular contact with the police officers stationed in your child's school

  • Being in contact with your local police force

  • Being in contact with anyone within your local police jurisdiction who may have the role of communicating with families of juveniles, like a social worker

  • Being in contact with administrators of your area 911 center

  • Partnering with your child to educate any of the above individuals about bipolar disorder before any kind of crisis situation

Making these local connections and developing such relationships with those in a position to respond to the most severe manifestations of your child's bipolar symptoms may be helpful in minimizing the impact such stressful circumstances may have on you and your child. Developing a plan of action should a crisis situation prevail is imperative for a child who may become very physically aggressive toward himself or others.

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