Tips for taking care of young caregivers. Let’s help those who help.
Young and adult caregivers’ emotional and physical health are usually highly affected: anxiety, depression or feelings of isolation, lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating habits, etc.
In this article, we give you some tips that will help the young caregiver to take care of his/her particular needs, contributing to his/her correct emotional development before life responsibilities become too overwhelming.
- Be a friend. It is convenient for parents and other family members to spend time with the young caregiver. Learning time, support, but also leisure. Feeling that we cannot do the same as other children and young people our age generates feelings of inferiority and frustration. It is convenient, in the best possible way, to pay attention to communication and leisure within the family in an efficient manner. Siblings of special children have their own needs and these must also be addressed.
- Strengthen constant communication within the family. Sharing kind words, asking about their interests or involving them in certain decisions that affect their brother/sister will make them feel part of the family and getting him/her involved will ensure they do not feel isolated and different.
- Share with other children or adults. Encouraging young caregivers to express their feelings will help them emotionally to build a strong personality. Expressing feelings and sharing concerns is a projection technique that alleviates suffering. Mutual support groups for siblings are also convenient, since they create of a group of people of reference who share the same feelings and concerns.
- Establish rest and leisure time. If we know in advance that there are leisure activities or moments that not all the members of the family can assume, let’s think about activities that are feasible to carry out and acquire a personal commitment for its realization. In that sense, the young caregiver can take part of leisure groups, such as sports or cultural teams, which will contribute to permanently fulfill an activity on his weekly agenda. This same recommendation, as far as possible, would also apply to the parents, always keeping in mind that young caregivers are and continue to be children and teenagers with their own leisure needs.
- Share the responsibility. Ask the young caregiver to perform important tasks related to the care of the sick child, but tasks requiring a low level of responsibility. For example: going to the grocery store to buy food for the sick sibling, taking care of the sick sibling while you do house stuff, etc.
Children and teenagers need time to play and have fun, and if they are siblings and caregivers of a child affected by a rare disease they have their own special needs. Let’s never forget to take care of them, but do not forget either to engage them in the care of their sibling. There is nothing more rewarding than helping a loved one, but we must ensure that young caregivers do so at an appropriate level for their age and capacities.