KidsInTheHouse the Ultimate Parenting Resource
Kids in the House Tour

How to Parent a Teenager with Borderline Personality Disorder 

teens with Borderline Personality Disorder

Parenting a teen with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is not an easy task. Due to the emotional mood swings and heightened sensitivity of teens with BPD, parents can sometimes feel like they are walking on eggshells.

This complex personality disorder has had a long stigma around it, that can sometimes isolate teens from having more open conversations with parents or adults. Teens with BPD can benefit from an environment filled with compassion, validation, and empathy.

Are you struggling to find the right method for helping your teen? We walk you through the best-proven ways to help your teenager have a healthy lifestyle and teach you how to cope with Borderline Personality Disorder.

The Struggle of Borderline Personality Disorder

BPD is a chronic mental health condition that can deeply impact a teen´s sense of self and impact their relationships with family, friends and the community. BPD takes normal teenage emotions to extremes, often taking over their body. Many teens with BPD experience a loss of control.

BPD increases the baseline of natural emotions and decreases tolerance to stress. Where a normal teen may feel angry, a teen with BPD could be shaking with rage. Happiness can feel like intense euphoria, and sadness can feel like grief. 

BPD also has high rates of comorbidity, 84% of BPD patients will have a co-occurring condition such as depression, anxiety, mood disorder, eating disorder or substance abuse. This adds an extra layer of difficulty for treatment, especially considering how hard rehab for teens can get if the issue doesn’t get addressed quickly enough.

BPD symptoms can be managed, however, there is no cure to simply get rid of BPD. Accepting this can be the first step to build awareness for both parents and teens.

Signs of BPD in Teens

BPD causes some pretty extreme symptoms. They may be labeled as immature, toxic or difficult. Some signs parents and teachers can be mindful of include:

  • Intense anger

  • Emotional outbursts (crying, screaming, punching walls)

  • Self-harm (scars on legs or arms, frequently wearing sweaters even in the warm weather to cover scars, burn marks)

  • Intense fear of abandonment (can present as avoidance of relationships to avoid abandonment, or extreme infatuation that can lead to stalking behavior)

  • Difficulty expressing themselves

  • Complains about feeling empty, out of touch with reality or not real

  • Drug use or binge drinking

  • Unstable relationships with friends and family

  • Overly sensitive (may take things very personal or to an extreme)

Coping with A Teen with BPD

BPD affects interpersonal relationships and can cause a strain between a parent and their child. Parents should give themselves extra compassion too and manage their own stress levels with self-care practices.

Teens with BPD often self-harm or harm others during aggressive outbursts. They may cut or burn their skin, or punch walls. Seeing this as a parent can be extremely daunting. Getting professional help for your BPD teen can sometimes be lifesaving, studies show 80% of BPD patients attempt suicide, and 10% die from suicide.

Ensuring your teen has an environment to safely release their emotions in a healthy way can be a game changer when it comes to their life.

Tools for Parents

Professional support is highly recommended for a teen with BPD diagnosis. However, we understand that treatment isn´t always available during meltdowns or episodes of self-destruction.

Parents see their kids in different environments and usually take the brunt of BPD symptoms from their teens.

Creating a safe home environment with low-stress can minimize BPD outbursts or self-destructive behaviors. Some things to do as a parent to support these outbursts include:

  •  Active listening to your teen with BPD, validating their feelings and taking their concerns seriously can help them feel heard and understood

  • Communicating in a soft tone and low voice can help reduce outbursts. Teens with BPD often tune into the tone of others and can internalize this as criticism or a threat

  • Model problem-solving skills with your teen rather than just telling them what to do. Teens with BPD may have trouble seeing how their actions affect their consequences

  • Promote a growth mindset by allowing your teen with BPD to make mistakes without shaming them. Teach them that they have some control over their actions and who they want to be

  • Talk in I statements and express emotions to your child about what you think or feel. Rather than putting all of the attention on them with statements like you are or you should

  • Encourage your teens to practice mindfulness and stay present

  • Find an activity to do with your teen that can promote bonding and build trust between the two of you (watching movies together, cooking, going on hikes, playing board games, going on a bike ride, etc)

Tools for Teens

Learning about the disorder and why they feel the way they do can be a great first step in understanding themselves. BPD is manageable and teens can go on to live a relatively normal life when proper support and treatment is available.

Some healthy coping strategies for teens with BPD to manage their symptoms include:

  • Journaling or tracking their moods to help identify days or situations where they may have more intense feelings or outbursts

  • Music can be greatly beneficial for teens to distract them from negative thoughts or even boost happiness when listening to positive, up beat music

  • Getting movement everyday can help manage the tension teens with BPD may experience from too many intense emotions

  • Find a person to reach out to in times of need this can be a counselor, parent, educator, coach, friend, peer support counselor or anyone you find to be a safe space

  • Activities to promote mindfulness (yoga, art, dance, playing music, singing, going outside, playing with an animal or pet)

The strategies above are not a replacement for treatment, but can help minimize episodes of distress when treatment or support is not immediately available.

How to Help My Teen?

Enrolling your teen in a professional treatment to support BPD can greatly help their well-being and future as an adult. Due to the high risk of self-harm and suicide, professional treatment should be paired with self-care practices around the home.

Two treatments most commonly used to help manage BPD symptoms in young people include Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and General Psychiatric Management (GPM).

DBT can help teens become aware of their emotions, learn to tolerate distress and construct healthy relationships with others. During DBT sessions teens may learn: 

  • Awareness of their emotions and what situations trigger them

  • Communication skills to build healthy connections with others 

  • Acceptance of situations they have no control over 

  • More positive experiences 

  • Ways to swap self-destructive behaviors for less intense behaviors that still provide the same function (instead of cutting oneself, using a rubber band on the wrist)

  • Activities to engage in that make them feel good about themselves (art, music, dance, volunteering)

General Psychiatric Management (GPM)

GPM provides a blend of treatment methods to build a specialized care plan. This may look different for each teen but can include a mix of therapeutic programs such as DBT, group support, medication management and school-based or home-based therapy.  

There is no specific medication to treat BPD but sometimes antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood stabilizers may be used to manage symptoms. 


Shen, C. C., Hu, L. Y., & Hu, Y. H. (2017). Comorbidity study of borderline personality disorder: BMC medical informatics and decision making, 17(1), 8.

Paris J. (2019). Suicidality in Borderline Personality Disorder. (Kaunas, Lithuania), 55(6), 223.