• By Amanda Blackburn.

Young Carers!

My son 6-year-old son Zac has been so amazing by helping his sister through her Crohn's disease. When a family member has an illness, it affects the entire family. It is not nice for little ones to see their siblings go through pain. As much as you try to hide it away from them, they are not silly and know something serious is going on.

Zac is a kind, caring happy little boy that likes to cheer everyone up by making them laugh. I'm pretty sure that he will be a comedian or entertainer when he grows up. But just lately he has been quiet and keeps complaining of a tummy ache.

Zac's teacher had a word with me after school and said she was a bit concerned as his stomach complaints had been going on for a month. He hadn't complained much at home so I hadn't thought it was a problem but I wanted to get him checked just in case there was something wrong.

I managed to get a doctors appointment for him the next morning. I am very close to my son and I thought he would tell me anything. However he completely broke down in front of the doctor when she asked him questions. He said he was so worried about his sister explaining that he didn't like to hear or see her in pain. He even explained that he can't go back to sleep as he thinks about her. That he misses me and his sister when she has to go to the hospital for a long time. He also talked about the loss of his dog Spot who sadly died earlier this year and said he didn't want his sister to die.

This broke my heart as I wasn't aware he was awake in the night when his sister was in pain. He usually would always tell me if he needed me in the night, when I asked him why he hadn't shouted for me he said he didn't want to make me worry anymore as I was already worried about Skye. I felt awful, I hadn't realised he was worrying so much as he always seemed so happy and care free.

The doctor advised us to speak to the school and of course said to come back if his stomach pains got any worse. She did examine him and all seemed well. He had recently had blood tests so she didn't feel the need to send him for any more yet.

I then took him back to school and had a chat with his teacher who straight away arranged for the school counsellor to come and chat with him. When I picked him up from school that day he seemed so much happier and proudly showed off a picture he had made of his dog Spot. Zac also came home with a pack with information on a service called Young Carers. I read through the information and filled in the enrolment form.

Young carers is a group that helps siblings to cope when a family member is seriously ill. Unfortunately, I have had to leave him again and be with his sister at the hospital. The hospital is in another city so it's not easy with dad managing work and school to visit. I'm looking forward to spending time with him this weekend and will spoil him when I swap with dad who will then stay with our daughter at the hospital.

Hopefully, our life's will improve now she's having an operation and we can get back to being a family again.

If you are a parent or child going through a tough time in your life due to a family member having an illness then maybe this information can help you.

Young carers can support someone age 18 or under who helps look after a relative that has a disability, illness, mental health condition, or a drug or alcohol problem.

If you are age 18 and below and are helping to look after your parents, brother, sister or another relative you are a young carer. You may do extra jobs in and around the home, such as helping the person you care for too, get dressed, move around, cooking, cleaning and shopping. Along with offering the physical support, you may also be giving emotional support.

If you started caring at a young age you probably don't even realise you are a carer.

If someone in your family needs to be looked after, you may really want to help them.

As much as you want to help you shouldn't be doing the same things as adult carers. Spending a lot of your time caring for someone can get in the way of your schooling and social life. It is always important to make sure that you have time for yourself to enjoy your life.

Remember that all disabled adults are entitled to support from their local authority, depending on their needs, so don't feel that you have to be relied on to care for them. Social services can help your whole family to feel supported and comfortable with your role.

Make sure you are also supported by talking your feelings through with your friends and family. If you find it hard to talk to others try to write down your thoughts on paper, in a diary, poem or letter first. This can help you to make sense of your thoughts and feelings before getting help.

Talk things through with your teacher they are there to help and have qualified knowledge of how you can access help. If you ever have to miss a lesson, are late or haven't been able to do your homework they will understand what is happening and give you more help.

If you prefer school to be a place where you can forget about your caring responsibilities and feel "normal" for a while that's fine but if someone at school knows at least they can support you if you need it. School can be a place where you're under extra pressure if people understand what your life is like outside school they will be more understanding.

If you find it difficult to talk about your home life with a teacher, ask someone in your family to phone or write a letter to your school. Your teachers may offer you extra time for school work when times are tough. The school may also be able to help with special arrangements for your parents' evenings if they have trouble leaving the house.There are lots of ways your school can help so don't be shy to ask, you need support too!

My son's school gave me a form to fill in for young carers service, without their help I wouldn't have even known it existed. If you would prefer to contact them yourself there is a website with more information, just type young caters into the search bar and it will direct you to a few choice sites.

Your family doctor (GP), nurse, a social worker or other people whose job is to help the person you look after should be able to organise more support at home to help you concentrate on school or college.

If you are missing out on opportunities to play and spend time with your friends. Young carers can help by arranging groups and sessions with other young carers. You deserve a break from it all too, somewhere where you can;

Make new friends.

Have fun. Talk and share some of your worries with people in similar situations to your own.

Most Young carers groups (depending on the area you live in) offer evening clubs, weekends away, days out and even holidays as well as friendly advice and information for you and for your family.

Your local social worker can also offer you help if there are problems that you or your family members are finding hard to sort out on your own.

If you have concerns about your own health or the health of the person you care for, speak to your doctor or nurse. Remember everything you discuss will be kept confidential unless you say otherwise.

Counsellors can help listen and give you advice privately. They work in a variety of places, including schools, hospitals and youth centres. If you need some emotional advice and support, mental health nurses can help advise about mental health conditions. If your parent has a ‘community psychiatric nurse’, you can talk to the nurse about your parent’s illness and how you can help your parent cope.

If you're worried about your own mental health, you can speak to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. There are services all over the country, giving support to young people with mental health conditions.

Remember don't try to cope with it all alone, you are just as important too!

#YoungCarers #Crohnsdisease

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