While many of us may feel unsettled from having had our Christmas plans change suddenly, many young carers may have been anticipating a break, with extended family and friends around to help them with their caring responsibilities for a while.
According to The Children’s Society, there are around 800,00 young carers aged 5-17 in the UK today who care for an adult or family member. Being a young carer can come with a lot of emotional and physical responsibilities including chores, nursing, bathing and dressing of a parent, or taking on the caring of younger siblings because an adult can’t.
This will mean that they have less free time than other young people, but they may not tell their friends why, because they may feel embarrassed or may not be able to cope with other people’s feelings about the situation alongside their own. Many young carers experience low self-esteem, anger, anxiety and guilt. They may miss out on school and miss out on events, which can add to the strain on mental health.
While many young people cope well with being a carer, especially if they have support from others and people to talk to, this year’s lockdowns and the increased threat to themselves and those they care for becoming ill will have made things especially difficult, and may have taken away any access to respite that they may have had. According to a survey carried out by Young Carers, 80% of the carers it supports felt more alone during lockdown, and over 50% weren’t able to take a break from their caring responsibilities.
If you are a young carer or know someone who is, it’s likely that the sudden change to Christmas plans will have caused some extra stress and taken away that opportunity for a break. Here are some things that you can do to help yourselves and others at this time:
Don’t keep things bottled up. It’s not selfish to share your concerns – you may have others to care for but you can’t do that properly if you’re not looking after yourself first. Talk to your family and friends, keep in touch however you prefer, whether that’s text, Zoom, phone calls or video chat. If you do better with a schedule, then see if the people you enjoy talking to are open to setting a time to catch up.
Look after yourself
If things go wrong on a plane, an oxygen mask will fall down and you are told to put that on yourself before helping others – this is because if you don’t look after yourself first, you won’t be able to look after anyone else.
Concentrate on the basics first and keep hydrated and well-fed, try to get enough sleep. There may be times that you feel you have too much on your mind, so try to unwind before you go to bed. Switch off your phone and take some time for yourself – whether that means a bath, stretching, reading a book, colouring. Breathe. Take a moment for you.
Find out the facts
Many people feel a bit overwhelmed with information at the moment and may be finding it hard to establish exactly what the facts are. Check the government website for the most up to date advice on your area. Many local councils will also have set up support groups with local services, so it’s worth checking on social media for any coronavirus groups in your area who may be able to advise you on the latest rules and risks to avoid, and help you with other things that you may need.
Ask for help
If you have a social worker, they should still be contactable over the Christmas break. Your local council can also point you in the right direction for more support from different agencies, including NHS volunteer responders.
You may not feel that you need help right now, but it’s always worth keeping the support available in mind. You may never need it, but it may be a comfort to know that it’s available. Make a note of these numbers or save this page, just in case:
Carers Direct 0300 123 1053
Carers UK 0808 808 7777
The Mix – free helpline for under 25s 0808 808 4994
Virtual meet ups
It’s great to see people face to face and interact in a different way and Mobilise runs a virtual cuppa for carers throughout the week. There are usually themes to each meet up, which you can just sit in and listen to or take part as you wish. At the moment, these focus on wellbeing, gratitude, self-care and reflection. It’s a good way to meet up with people who have a real understanding of how you may be feeling.
If you would like more support or work with a group of young carers who would benefit from one of our programmes, please get in touch.