3 tips to connect with the young carer of your family.

Young carers provide support to parents, siblings, grandparents or other family members who live with a disability.  Often they put their own needs last due to the significant amount of support the person living with a disability needs.  Young carers face social isolation, poor health/hygiene and difficulties living as a ‘normal teenager’ transitioning into adulthood.

For many families, the focus is often on the child with the diagnosis who requires a significant amount of support. While it may not be intentional the siblings are often forgotten. They learn to take the back seat, that is all that they know……right?!

My goal for years has been to have a holiday with my youngest child who is a young carer. He cares for his older sibling who has autism. I wanted to give him some respite from his usual ground hog day routine.  So In January this year we set off to Cairns, our first holiday….. just us! How exciting!!

BUT the reality of the silent sibling hit me very quickly…

Whilst I was ready for cocktails by the pool, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef and some scenic treks, Mr 15 was withdrawn, depressed and sick of his life as a young carer.  Not one of the above activities impressed him.  The only interaction I was getting from him was short yes/no answers.  Upon our arrival he made plans to sit in the ‘stupid hotel’ room for 5 days! By the way our stupid hotel was a 5 star hotel with two pools, a gym, breakfast daily, room service, Foxtel…. You get my drift, in my opinion it was far from stupid.

So I tried my luck and changed the itinerary to high adrenaline activities…. After all this holiday was about him enjoying himself and coming out of his shell….. having a break!

Day 1…..we set out on a jet boat!  40 minutes of going high speeds, spinning 360’s, racing around the river.  He was soon laughing, singing to the music accompanied by me screaming with fear, my dress up around my neck flapping in the wind! Not my idea of a relaxing holiday but it broke the ice!!!

Day 2…..we hired a car, this is where he got talking! I find the car a great opportunity for teenagers to open up. I called it a road trip from the 90s, we took a step back in time, ditched google maps and found ourselves a good old fashioned map from the tourist centre! Overall feedback, he loved not following the blue dot on google maps, no technology just good old fashioned adventures! We swam in waterfalls, slid down rocks and visited a dairy in the middle of nowhere with the most amazing milkshakes…..!! ✅ 

Next up……. tree swinging! This swing goes 120km per hour in 3.5 seconds. Eeeek! 

But here’s the deal breaker – he wants me to join him swinging from treetops at 120km per hour. I was not prepared to be swinging at high speeds from treetops, I was prepared to take photos and wave from the side line.

So here goes….I tuck my dress into my knickers and start swinging at crazy speeds laughing with my teenager! Handy tip, pack comfy clothes, dresses are not ideal for jet boats and tree swinging!

If that doesn’t get your heart rate going and make you feel like you’re 21 again, I don’t know what will! Our holiday ended up being fabulous and filled with wild adventures and lots of laughing!!

Here’s my 3 tips on how to connect with the young carer of the family;

  • Have them join a team sport or club, where they go independently, it helps them find their identity and build friendships.
  • Drive them to school or their sport, just you two! Car chats can be a space where they open up. For families of many children, make one day of the week a trip that is just you and them. One on one.
  • Have a yearly getaway together. A night or weekend away. Have them choose the activity and make it about them. Oh and don’t book stupid hotels ????

You don’t have to go to Cairns to connect with your young carer, check out local activities and young carer support groups.  We connected with young carers support network through Carers Gateway a few years ago. Carers Gateway provides support for not only carers but young carers (under 25 years old). Young carers has helped my son remain engaged in school, join a team sport and most importantly provided a mentor to speak with that, understands what life is like living with family members with a disability. 


SASI parent blogger