If you are a young carer, know that you are not alone, there are a surprisingly large number of young carers in the world with almost 400 000 Australians under the age of 26 caring for a loved one with an illness or disability

Being a young carer is a massive responsibility that is both a rewarding learning experience and a daunting challenge that may affect their social lives. Many young carers do not fully understand their role as a carer and see it as just something they have to do. Young carers can feel trapped and alone within all the daily responsibilities they must face in their role as a caregiver. If you are a young carer, know that you are not alone, there are a surprisingly large number of young carers in the world with almost 400 000 Australians under the age of 26 caring for a loved one with an illness or disability. Many people may not identify as a carer unless they have been told they are one, going under the radar unrecognised and unaware of the tools and support that is available to them. If you are under the age of 26 and currently looking after a family member or loved one with a mental disorder, chronic illness, physical disability or a drug/alcohol problem then you are classified as a young carer.

Young carers have many more responsibilities and challenges
that will impact their home, school and social life as they
find less and less time for themselves

Find Support

One of the most useful and important things you should do if you are a young caregiver is to seek any support you can to make your life easier. Taking advantage of these support systems can help relieve some of your frustrations and to give you time to study and socialise. It is easy to lose yourself in time consuming caregiving but always make sure to give yourself some me-time to relax and enjoy yourself. Northside has many support options to help free up time in your daily schedule by transporting or caring for your loved ones. Young caregiver respite programs are also readily available to give young carers a much needed break full of fun and social activities. You can also find more information in our other blog regarding the importance of peer support and where to find it. As a young carer in Australia you might also want to make use of the many resources and information packages available to you over at youngcarers.net.au and www.youngcarersnsw.org.au. If you still feel overburdened or trapped by your caregiving responsibilities and seek counselling or emotional support then contact the Kids Help Line as soon as possible on 1800 55 1800.

Overcoming Challenges

Young carers have many more responsibilities and challenges that will impact their home, school and social life as they find less and less time for themselves. Balancing social life and caregiving is probably the largest mountain that needs  to be climbed as a young carer. Young carers will find themselves torn between their sense of duty to loved one and their personal interests with so little free time on hand. Not only can it be difficult to find the time to invite friends over but you may also feel uncomfortable or embarrassed inviting people over in fears that your mother might have an episode while they are there. If this sounds similar to your situation then perhaps make use of the support available to you now that you know you are a young caregiver. Northside provides a range of fun social activities for your loved one that are tailored to their needs. This will give you the free time you need to have friends over or study for an exam while your loved one is enjoying themselves in a safe environment. These service can also be helpful for managing everyday domestic duties, especially for someone trying to be a fulltime student. Domestic assistance and respite programs can reduce your daily workload and increase your social opportunities.

Being a successful caregiver at a young age can allow you
to mature emotionally and develop much better competence
in understanding others through empathy.

Learning Experience

Being a young carer can also be a rewarding learning experience that allows you to develop important life skills and builds deeper connections with your loved ones. It opens your eyes up to the realities of the world and allows for realistic expectations to be formed about the future and allows you to understand first hand, if you want to work in a related field such as nursing. Being a successful caregiver at a young age can allow you to mature emotionally and develop much better competence in understanding others through empathy. Developing such empathy, wisdom and compassion from a young age can open a lot of doors and allow you to be the best person you possibly can be. Being able to provide social support to your friends and family and tune into their varying needs and emotions can drastically improve your own and their relationships. Of course being a young carer also looks great on any resume you might submit for working in a health care field such as nursing or psychology.

By John Jeffery

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