What our Friends in Australia have learned
That for a variety of reasons, caregiving youth are often reluctant or perhaps unable to identify themselves. Some children feel that they shouldn’t discuss their family’s problems, others find it hard to ask for help, some feat the ramifications if they identify themselves and some do not even recognize their role as a young caregiver.
TEACHERS CAN MAKE A HUGE IMPACT on their lives just by being aware, by listening to them and by believing their stories.
WHEN ADEQUATELY SUPPORTED, young caregiving can be a positive experience that can give skills and confidence, strengthen family relationships and increase a student’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem.
Students may not identify themselves or ask for help because they FEAR BEING REMOVED from their family. They may also think that what they are doing is normal or they may perceive others will think they are "different".
Sometimes it TAKES A CRISIS to identify a young caregiver. And, sometimes this crisis COULD BE PREVENTED if the student had adequate support.
"Young carers take on huge responsibilities that often restrict them in pursuing the activities necessary for them to maintain good health. They can be particularly vulnerable if they are not regularly active and do not have a healthy diet."
Research shows that the mental health of youth is enhanced when they are able to participate in formal and informal activities.
Young caregivers seek leisure time outcomes as much as their peers expect:
* Opportunities to form and reaffirm friendships
* Variety and a break from studying
* Challenges to their skills
* Personal involvement
WAYS TEACHERS CAN HELP!
* Assure that young caregivers have flexibility in the scheduling of activity participation.
* Ensure that students are informed about their own health and nutritional status needed to carry out their extra responsibilities.
* Encourage students to participate in athletic activities even if they cannot make a full season commitment.
* Refer students to school and community resources for help:
* Health professionals
* Support groups
* Respite on a regular basis and including getting away
* Websites and information services
* Financial help when needed
* Communicate understanding and that they are not alone in their journey.
Materials adapted with permission from Carers Australia.