How to Cope As a Young Carer
Young Carers are children and young people aged 5-18 who help to look after somebody in their family because that person has a disability, illness, mental health difficulty, or because that person misuses drugs or alcohol.
Many children and young people help out at home with things like washing dishes and keeping their room tidy but young carers do more than that. Being a young carer can sometimes be overwhelming – here are some tips on how to cope when you’re finding caring difficult.
Am I a young carer?
You may not see yourself as a carer; caring for a friend or family member is just a part of your life and it feels pretty normal.
But officially, you’re recognised as a young carer if you’re under 18 and looking after someone who’s sick, disabled or has mental health or addiction issues. If you’re caring for someone and you’re aged 18-25, you’re officially seen as a young adult carer.
What kind of thing do young carers do?
Caring can range from small tasks to round-the-clock care. You might be doing the shopping and housework, providing emotional support for a family friend, helping to get your sister ready for school or making sure your dad takes his medicine.
Being a young carer can be difficult
Firstly, if you’re a young or young adult carer – you’re amazing. Taking care of someone is a kind and brilliant thing to do, and it can have so many rewards. You get to help someone you love; you learn loads about looking after someone, and you can see how much your care has changed their life for the better.
But caring can also be tough, lonely and stressful. If you feel that way sometimes – that’s ok, and we’re here to help.
What might young carers struggle with?
Here are some examples of issues you might find challenging as a young carer.
Maybe you feel worried about the person you care for, or anxious about how other family members are coping. Money issues might keep you up at night, or you may feel stressed because you can’t keep up with your job or your schoolwork.
When you spend a lot of your time caring, it can be difficult to make room for your social life. When your friends are out having fun, it can feel isolating, like you’re missing out and that other people don’t really get what you’re going through.
Although you love the person you care for, it’s easy (and totally understandable) to feel frustrated that you can’t have much “me time.” You might feel like you just want a “normal” life and that can make you feel angry sometimes.
Spending a lot of time caring can affect your self-esteem, as you don’t have as much time to make friends and have down time. You might experience bullying at school because people see you as being a bit different, and this can knock your confidence too.
What can I do to help me cope?
Remember that it’s normal to feel like you’re not coping. Caring for someone can be hard and if you’re struggling, there’s no need to feel guilty. You’re not alone and there are lots of things you can try to help with the tough days.
Here are some ideas for coping strategies.
Write down your thoughts and feelings
It sounds simple but keeping a journal can make a huge difference. It’s totally private and gives you a place to vent if you’re having a bad day, or just want to have a good rant. Try writing down whatever’s on your mind. This can help you to make sense of how you feel and get burning issues off your chest.
Learn how to be mindful
Mindfulness helps you to keep calm by becoming more aware of the present moment. When you’re starting to freak out, some simple breathing techniques can really help. Try the Headspace app for some short, easy meditations and visit bemindful for more information on mindfulness.
Do what you love
Are you great at basketball? Could you spend hours painting? Do you love making up songs on your guitar? Make the time to do the things you enjoy! It will help to reduce your stress levels and make you feel happier and more like yourself.
Taking some time out for a walk in the fresh air, or a long, hot soak in the tub can also be great for getting your mojo back.
Talk to someone
When you’re feeling isolated, the best thing you can do is to have a chat with someone, so if you can, go and meet a friend for a cuppa and tell them how you’re feeling.
There are also plenty of online support networks, like The Mix’s community, this forum run by Carers UK and the services offered by Action for Children. You can also speak Carers Trust for help and advice, or contact your local council to find support groups near you. Talking to other young carers who know where you’re coming from can make you feel less alone.
Ask for support
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help if you’re finding caring overwhelming. You could speak to a teacher at school or talk to your GP to ask for advice. At The Mix, there are several support services you could contact if you want to talk to someone about what you’re going through.