Navigating life with a teenager….who happens to have bipolar disorder

Our Happy Life Agreement

In our house, we LOVE the Big Bang Theory.  For those of you that don’t watch it, it is hysterical……and sometimes very relatable to our lives. My son tends to connect with Sheldon on certain levels.  It was due to this love of the show that we came up with something that helped us define rules, behaviors and consequences in our house.

One day my son said that we should have a roommate agreement.  I wasn’t too keen on this title, as it put us as equals, and I didn’t want him to think he had as much say in the way our house is run as the adults.  I did like the idea of an agreement though.  I know, in the past, teachers have had him do something similar in their classes and it helped to keep him on track.

I decided to write our ‘Happy Life Agreement’. I listed general rules to live by in our house and it is always posted on the refrigerator. It may not always be followed, but we have tried a lot harder since putting it in place.  It also helps when I remind my son of a rule he forgot, when he tells me ‘you’ve never said that before’ I can show him the agreement and his signature next to the rule.  Written proof is always irrefutable.  I thought I would share our agreement with you.


Happy Life Agreement

General Rules for the Whole Family

1. Be Respectful – use kind words and manners

of yourself

of others

of property – this includes other people’s personal items and the house in general.

2. No Begging – If the words ‘no’ or ‘we’ll see’ are used, do not push or the answer will be a resounding ‘NO’ in the future.

3. No Verbal Abuse – Do not swear or use words of anger with each other and most definitely do not use the word Hate.

4. No locking yourself in or others out of a room, with the exception of the bathroom when in use.

5. All family members promise to knock on any closed door before entering.  If someone knocks, the person on the other side of the door must respond. If there is no response in a timely manner, the door will be opened in an effort to make sure the other family member is safe.

6. Always communicate, know that talking solves all problems. Never be too embarrassed about a subject, you will always be heard.

7. Do not play the victim or pity card – Know that life happens and sometimes it’s hard. We deal with the challenges we are given and learn how to live with the tough stuff, they make us stronger, give us character and because of those challenges, we are unique.

8. All personal items are your responsibility – If you have misplaced something, ask politely for help in finding it.  If other family members are not engaged in something, we will help you. If we cannot find the specific item, do not get verbally abusive of the person helping you.  If you do not wish to lose items, maintain your personal space, this will help you to know where things are.

9. Always Know That You Are Loved.

Kid Specific Rules


1. Wake up with an alarm for school and prepare to leave in a timely manner. To get to school on time you must be ready no later than 7:30 for the bus, 8am for Michael (step-dad) or 8:20 for mom.

2. Get homework done before bedtime without argument.  Never use the excuse of ‘I am stupid’, be aware that your IQ proves that you are far from stupid.

Outside Activities

1. Always ask before leaving the house without an adult.

2. Always stay at the location where you are going.

3. Always have a phone with  you and keep it near-by.

4. If that phone rings, answer it……..use proper phone etiquette and never hang up on the person calling.


1. Always ask before friends come over.

2. Always have friends enter through the front door, never the basement door…..the exception to this rule is if friends are already here and you are utilizing the backyard for play, you can then enter and exit through the basement.

3. If it is not a good day for friends to come over, accept that and we will try to make plans for an alternate day.


1. Meds will be taken in the a.m. and before bed without an argument or complaint.


1. If you are frustrated and having an overwhelming day, communicate that.

2. If you need to take a time out, do not yell and scream, let adults know and remove yourself from a situation until you are calm.  Once you have calmed down, you are expected to come back and discuss your frustrations reasonably.

3. No physical abuse – Hitting or swinging items at a person, animal or wall is not accepted……this rule applies to flowers or flowering bushes as well.

Travel Plans

1. All travel plans must be discussed with mom first, never make plans with out-of-town relatives on your own.

Items on this agreement will be changed by mom only as the need arises or as requirements change due to growing up. if any items on this agreement are violated, consequences may include any of the following, loss of times with friends, loss of all electronic equipment, shut down of Netflix and/or Hulu accounts, loss of Thursday skate night or loss of Saturday YuGiOh tournaments.  Punishment may be one item listed above or a combination of the items listed based on the severity of the violation.


My son’s counselor fell in love with our agreement and actually had me give him a printed copy .  He also suggested that we create a consequences addendum to go along with each broken rule. We did so, but it is very specific to my son and at the point where it needs to be updated, so I don’t think it would be helpful to post it here.  Each section was initialed and the entire document was signed by every member of the family.

I am not saying that this always works.  As many of you know, when you have bipolar disorder or any neurological or mental disorder present in your home, things can be very unpredictable.  It does, however, remind us all that we are a family. We found, by doing this together, it helped us define the type of home-life we wanted to have.   Even when we disagree, having a happy life is something we all agree on.


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