Identity – Part 1
A 10 minute read for ages 16 +
Growing up with a sibling or parent who has special health needs can make discovering who you are; your values, your needs, your interests, your quirks – confusing. When you’re always “needing to make sure that the other is OK”, this can make it harder to develop your own identity.
All young carers are individuals and there are many different types of caring situations.
Sometimes, you become a young carer suddenly.
If you became a young carer suddenly – maybe someone in your family became sick or had an accident – you might feel like you’re different or be self-conscious, like everyone is looking at you.
Some young carers are helping their parents care for a sibling.
I’m glad you’re normal, so that you can take care of yourself.
That’s what one young carer’s mother said to them.*
Some young carers look after their parent and are the main carer in their home.
If you’re a young carer who cares for a parent, you might start acting like the “parent”, without even knowing that you’re doing this.
There are many other types of caring situations too - like caring for a grandparent.
There’s, like, a lot of loneliness, I guess in that, your problems matter but there’s just no time for them to matter.
All The Feels
Young carers might swing between feeling resentful of the person that they care for then feeling guilty for feeling resentful. Although every situation is different, the one thing that all young carers have in common is a “lack of attention” (Carers WA Counsellor).
Young carers often think that they are burdening their parents by asking for what they need or talking about how they feel.
It’s no-one’s fault – being in a caring family can be tough for everyone involved.
Sometimes, this need for attention can come out in creative ways.
- Trying to be perfect – feeling the pressure to not rock the boat, or make up for the sick sibling or trying to gain your parent’s praise through achievement.
- Misbehaving – although you would prefer positive attention, getting told off is better than no attention at all.
- Acting like the sibling that you care for – sometimes for attention and other times to try to understand what it’s like for your sibling.
You may have already heard this but there is no such thing as a “bad” emotion. Our feelings are there to help show us what we need at the time and what is important to us.
Live Out Loud
- Name your feelings.
Start keeping a diary and writing down what happened and how you feel about it. Writing a diary can help get things off your chest but you won’t need to edit what you say because you're worried about upsetting people.
- Talk to a counsellor.
Ask Young Carers WA to help put you in touch with a counsellor. If you’re under 16, we will need your parent’s permission but we have yet to meet a parent who didn’t want their young carer child to have help.
- Ask for what you need.
When you start identifying what your feelings are, it can help you to then know more about what you, as an individual, need. E.g. if you’re feeling jealous of the attention that your sibling has from your parents, maybe you can ask them for some one-on-one time each day or week. This could be very hard if the person you care for needs someone around all the time but if you’re creative or ask for help, there could be ways around this. I.e. Spend time with each parent separately or find some respite for your family. Carers WA’s Advisory team might be able to help your family find respite.
Being a not-for-profit, Carers WA’s services are all free, so you don’t need to worry that talking to a counsellor or getting advice will cost your parents anything. If you can’t get away to have face to face counselling, the Counselling team might be able to help you out with Skype or phone counselling instead – just ask.
Click on the links below for more info.
Remember, you matter, too. The feelings you have, the needs you have, they are perfectly natural and they are just as important as the rest of your family’s feelings and needs.
* From the book “Being the Other One”, by Kate Strohm from Siblings Australia.