Relationships are a huge part of everyone’s life. As a teen or young adult, you may be trying to rely less on your family and build stronger relationships with others. As a young carer, this can be really complicated if you feel pulled in different directions.

Family

Relationships with family members can be tough and being a young carer adds to that. Sometimes dealing with a challenge together or experiencing a crisis can bring families closer and make relationships and bonds stronger. Other times it can cause tension, like when family members disagree about how to handle a situation or if it should be discussed with others outside the family. You might not always get the attention you need or want from your family. Maybe you think you can’t raise your issues because they don’t seem as important as everything else that’s going on. Or, you may exaggerate an issue or problem to make it seem as important as the other issues your family is dealing with. Roles and boundaries can become blurry.

You might find your relationship with your parents is different than your friends’ relationships with their parents. Your parents may treat you differently, expect you to take on more responsibilities, or share too much information with you. Maybe they expect you to always be there to help, even if the situation is chronic or long-term. This can bring up angry and resentful feelings and make it hard for you to plan for your own future. Things can be complicated with your extended family too. They might make your life easier by helping with care responsibilities, doing household tasks, or being someone you can talk to. Other times, they could judge or give unwanted advice without actually offering to help, which can be frustrating.

Friends and Others

As a young carer, friendships can be really hard. At times, you may have so much to deal with at home that you don’t have the time or energy for relationships with people outside your family. Some friends might not understand your situation, while others don’t care, or tell you you’re too negative when you’re just telling the truth about your life. Because of this, you might pick and choose what you tell your friends; you may even drift apart. This can make you feel alone and misunderstood. Maybe you avoid social activities and drama by never fully committing to plans or cutting out needy friends. You might try to make friends with people who are “drama-free” and stay away from conflict with friends so you won’t get blamed for it. Other times, it may seem easier not to have many friends.

It may seem like people are always watching and judging you and your family. They might think that you have a broken family without knowing anything about what is going on. Some people have expectations of you because of your age and do not understand your unique role in your family. When you open up to someone you might worry that they think you are making things sound worse than they are because they don’t see the issues your family member is dealing with. This can make it really hard to open up and find the support you need and want in the community. It sometimes makes parents scared to let people outside of the family know what’s going on because they don’t want to be judged or criticized.

Adults outside your family, like coaches, camp counsellors, teachers, neighbours or family friends, can be important in your life. When these adults show they care about you and your situation, you will be more likely to bond with and respect them. They can provide you with the attention, motivation, and praise you feel that you’re not getting at home. Because of this, you may look up to them as role models and try very hard to please them, so they will be proud of you. It can be tough to find friends and adults outside your family that give you what you’re looking for when not everyone understands your situation, your family wants to keep things private, or people are not available when you need them. When you are able to find people you can depend on, they can have a huge impact on your life.

Ways to Cope 

Relationships are a necessary part of life, even though they can be complicated. Are you getting what you need from your relationships? There are ways to help create stronger relationships in your life.

  • Talk to trusted family members and friends about what you’re going through, even though it might be hard to open up. You may be surprised by how supportive people will be if they understand your situation and what you need.
  • Find family members and close friends who want to help out. Many people do want to help, but just don’t know how. For example, when you have plans with friends, arrange for someone to cover for you at home if needed. This can help to ease your mind and make sure you don’t have to change your plans if your family member needs help.
  • Be selective about who you spend your time with. Good relationships are safe, healthy and positive. Look for and spend time with people who let you act your age, be yourself, and feel good. This could be a friend, teacher, camp counsellor, or family member.
  • Connect with people that understand what you’re dealing with through blogs, chat rooms, forums, and other online options.
  • Use technology to keep the people involved with your family connected and updated, create a care schedule, or coordinate anything else that’s needed.