School can be a great break for a young carer.
It's an opportunity for you to meet up with friends, focus on your own interests and ambitions, and get a break from your caring responsibilities at home. However, many young carers come to feel as if they lead a ‘double life'. They have a very different home life compared to their friends and may not even tell their friends or teachers that they care for someone in their family.
It can be really hard to talk to people at school about your family and the person you care for. You might feel like they won't know what to say or you might feel embarrassed about the work you do at home. Even though it can be hard at first, it's often easier to tell people about the person in your family who needs extra help. Your friends and teachers can be a great support and if they know a bit about your situation they will be able to help you when you need it.
Talking to teachers
Your teachers can be a good support, but first they need to know that you are a young carer. Here are some tips on how to talk to your teachers about being a young carer:
- If you can, ask a parent or family member to ring or email your teachers early in the year to let them know that you are a young carer.
- Remember that some teachers don't know what a young carer is! Let them know about this website so they can find out more information and learn about others just like you.
- Keep a diary for a day, or write down a list of things you do to help the person you care for. If you feel comfortable, show it to your teachers so they know about the extra responsibilities you have at home.
Talking to friends
It's important to let your close friends know a bit about your home life as this will help them understand you more. It can also give them a chance to help you through the times when you are feeling lonely or stressed about your role as a young carer.
Here are a few pointers on how to talk to your friends about being a young carer:
- Don't hide it! If you are late to school because of your caring responsibilities, or if your parents can't always take you to activities after school, it's a good opportunity to explain to your friends why.
- Let your friends know the facts of the disability or illness your family member has and try to explain it to them in a way they will understand.
- If your friends come over to your house and don't know how to interact with the person you care for, lead by example. Remember that your friends are probably just scared of saying or doing something wrong!
What to do when...
You have trouble getting to school on time, or need to leave early, because of your caring responsibilities at home.
Let your teachers or year coordinator know as soon as you can about your role as a young carer. Try to work out a school timetable with them which takes into account your duties as a young carer at home.
Your friends don't know that you care for somebody at home.
Tell them! This can be hard to do, but you will feel better for it. It may feel easier to talk to one friend first rather than a whole group.
The person you care for embarrasses you in front of your friends.
Know that it is normal to have feelings of embarrassment, anger, or guilt about something that the person you care for might do. Other young carers will be able to share many similar stories, and it helps to talk these situations through with people who have been there.
Your family wants you to be at home on weekends but you want to spend time with your friends.
It can be hard as a young carer to start your own life while you still have responsibilities with your family. It can be especially difficult for your family and the person you care for, as they are used to seeing you all the time. Try to find regular times when you can be with your family to show them that you still care for them.