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"Even though my friends and teachers know I am a young carer, I don’t feel I can talk to them about how I’m feeling because they wouldn’t understand"
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Everyone at my school knew about the awful car crash my mum and I were in when I was six, which left mum with chronic pain that’s getting worse.
They knew about the operations Mum’s had on her spine, and that I had to stay with family or friends while she was in hospital for weeks, until she was well enough to come home.
Many people know my mum had to leave her job in nursing. Because the medication she needs to manage her pain is so strong, she’s not allowed to keep helping others while she’s taking it.
Some know that because it’s only me and Mum at home, I sometimes have to take on extra responsibilities around the house and help Mum when needed, as she can’t do some things she could before and still wants to do for me.
A few people also know that after I was identified as a young carer about 18 months ago, a support worker from Barnardo’s comes into school sometimes to visit me and check I’m OK, and arranges for me to go to activity days with other young carers.
But even though so many people know these things, there are also probably a lot of things they don’t know…
Like how scary it is to see Mum have to be ventilated after these huge operations as she can’t breathe for herself, or how much I keep an eye on her and worry about her health, as we can see her pain spreading to other parts of her body.
People don’t know how frustrated I can feel at how unfair our situation is and how difficult it is for Mum to have to accept.
And people might not realise that as well as helping out at home, I also need to support Mum emotionally. That can be a lot for me to take on and can sometimes leave me feeling upset and angry, even though I love Mum so much and want to help her as much as I can.
At times, that frustration can build up inside and even though my friends and teachers know I am a young carer, I don’t feel I can talk to them about how I’m feeling because they wouldn’t understand.
The only person I’ve felt properly able to talk to is my support worker, who plays games with me to help me express my feelings and vent my frustrations.
So dear teacher, if I’m a little distracted in class, please don’t think I’m not interested in what you have to say. It might be that Mum is suffering more these past few days and I’m worried about how she’s managing while I’m not there.
And if I look a little tired, please don’t think I’ve been up late watching TV. It might be that Mum has another operation coming up and I’m struggling to sleep because I’m scared about what might happen.
On the odd occasion my homework isn’t finished on time, please don’t think I’m being lazy. I might have cooked tea and done the dishes last night as Mum had been struggling with her pain, but I wouldn’t want to broadcast this to the class if you asked me on the spot.
There are lots of other young carers like me, some who may take on more than I do, but not all of them have their situations known and not all their parents will keep school updated like my mum does.
These children may be scared to let anyone know they care for a family member, as they’re afraid what will happen if they do.
Please look out for the signs and talk to any child you think may be a carer – most days we are happy and manage just fine, but all young carers need a friend to talk to and to make sure the right support is in place not just for them, but for their family too.
Morven Llewelyn-Howell is 12 years old and meets with a support work from Barnardo’s.
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