Am I a Young Carer?
You're a young carer if you're under 18 and help to look after a relative with a disability, illness, mental health condition, or addiction. Some people start giving care at a very young age and don't really realise they're carers. Other young people become carers overnight. If you're a young carer, you probably look after one of your parents or care for a brother or sister. On top of providing emotional support to the person you are caring for may also look after their personal needs like bathing and dressing, or the needs of others in the family.
But I don’t do it on my own so am I really a Young Carer?
Even if you aren't the only one who is doing the looking after, you can be a young carer. Especially if you're doing a lot more than just helping out occasionally, if you’re unsure how your jobs round the house would get done if you didn’t do them, and if it takes up a lot of your time or you feel that you have to be home in order to help out.
We’re coping, why do I need help?
Many Young Carers cope well with caring, especially if you have support from other family members and it’s important to look after yourself. If someone in your family needs to be looked after, you may really want to help them. But as a young carer, you shouldn't be doing the same things as adult carers. Nor should you be spending a lot of your time caring for someone, as this can get in the way of you doing well at school and doing the same kinds of things as other children or young people.
What sort of practical help is there?
For Young Carers in the UK, there are many different forms of support on offer and groups who want to help you. When institutes such as Social Services get mentioned, people can feel nervous but this organisation is not there to scare you or make judgements. You can have a meeting with them where they’ll assess what support they can offer the person you are caring for in order to take some of the pressure off you. It’s also really helpful to speak with your school so that they can give you any extra support you may need (like deadline extensions or homework help).
Are there other people like me?
You are absolutely not alone. There are estimated to be around 800,000 Young Carers in the UK and there are all sorts of organisations who work to bring you all together. From social events to online forums, from family fun days to summer holidays, there are hundreds of people looking to give you a bit of time away from any pressures you might be facing.
How do I ask for help?
It can be daunting to reach out and make the first steps in asking for help. Find somebody that you trust and can open up to, be this a friend, a family member, or a teacher, it needs to be someone you feel comfortable speaking with. You can bring the subject up in a manner of ways, either directly asking for help, mentioning this article you have read, asking what you could do for a friend… any way in which you feel most at ease. Sometimes it helps to make notes or a list in order to remember everything you want to say. Make sure you have enough time to speak about things; you don’t want to be cut short just as you’re getting comfortable. Remember that it won’t always feel easy when you’re speaking, you will feel nervous, and that’s OK. It might make you feel more comfortable if you have had a think about what help you would like so that you don’t feel too overwhelmed by the conversation and you have a goal you can steer towards.
But what if things at home are fine and it’s school that’s a problem?
There are all sorts of things your teachers can help you with if you are struggling at school. It might be that you don’t have enough time to complete your homework or you have missed a few days of school because you’re looking after someone, or maybe you’re having problems with people in your classes; whatever it is, your teachers can help you make some of these things a bit easier. Through additional support, homework clubs, one to one recaps of work you have missed, mediating between friends, or setting up some time when you can speak about your feelings and problems; your teachers are there to help you get the most out of school (and they’re not all dragons!).
I’m worried that if I say something or ask for her, the person I am helping will feel bad.
No one wants you to struggle. Even if you think that the person you are helping will feel sad or cross, they ultimately want to help you and make your days as easy as possible. It will not always be an easy process but if everyone involved is honest and open with each other, we can make it work.