Ways to support a young carer
If you know a young carer, you might feel like there is nothing you can do to make their situation better. The reality is that young carers really need you, even though they might not say it, and there are lots of things you can do to help them feel more supported and less alone.
• Be their safe person:
• Be compassionate and empathetic.
• Let them know that they can talk to you about anything. Even if they don’t take you up on your offer, keep reminding them so they know you are being genuine. Sometimes young carers are protecting themselves by not opening up right away, so don’t take it personally. You never know when they might finally reach out.
• Be supportive, nonjudgmental and try not to pry for information. Just listen to what they feel comfortable sharing.
• Focus on their perspective and experiences rather than on their family members.
• Ask the young carer what they need and want from you. Are they looking for someone who will simply listen to them and let them vent, a mentor, or someone who will challenge them?
• If you can, help them meet others who have similar experiences so they feel less alone.
• If they are ready, help facilitate opportunities for them to learn new things, improve their coping strategies, increase their support system, and have some fun.
• Help them find a safe place where they can go to relax when they need a break from their responsibilities at home.
You can play an important role in the lives of young carers as a supportive, stable and caring adult. There are many issues that can come up at school that you can help address. Here are some points to keep in mind:
• Every school has young carers. Find out who they are and invest some extra time in them. Get to know their name and story, make time for them, and be encouraging. A little positive attention and understanding can go a long way.
• Educate other staff on the young carer experience to help raise awareness about the ways it can impact their lives both inside and outside of school.
• Explore who the young carer would like to have as their go-to people at school and how to access them.
• Do the best you can not to judge young carers based on your knowledge of, or interactions with, their siblings, parents, or other family members. For example, their sibling might have a disability or mental health issue that causes them to act out in class, but that doesn’t mean that the young carer will as well.
• Be understanding and take steps to make your classroom or office as safe as possible for young carers. School may be the only place that young carers have time away from home or a predictable routine and you may be the only adult they have outside their family that they can trust and open up to.
• Make time in your schedule to consistently check in with the young carer.
• Be flexible and accommodate their needs when you can:
• Set aside time outside of class to help them with homework.
• Provide extensions if they’ve been dealing with an emergency.
• Be understanding when they miss school to help their family.
• Explore how they can stay connected with their family during school hours when needed.
• Don’t underestimate the impact you’re having as a caring adult.
• Share this information with your colleagues, other community members, and young carers.