Behind the term “young carers”, there are so many individual stories, lives and everyday experiences. Young Carers Action Day, 16 March 2023, feels like an opportunity to think what might enrich young carers’ lives across their very different situations.
We imagine childhood and youth should be carefree, fun, relaxed, even as we remember that growing up really wasn’t all like that. So the very idea of young carers contradicts those ideals. Some young people care for one or two parents, some for a sibling, some for a grandparent or other relative. Some will be the main or sole carer, some may help others to care for someone. Caring may be long-term or temporary. It may be all the young person has ever known, or an illness or accident may have happened quite suddenly, turning the familiar upside down. And young carers may be still at primary school or nearing adulthood. At present, the many issues within the health and care sectors impact further on carers of all ages. Support may be more uneven, less regular, all placing more responsibility on the young carer.
Maybe creativity – such as music and art – could particularly help young carers as something to turn to at any spare moment – not just at a young carers’ group. Not all young carers can attend such a group, and even if they do, there will be far more days when the group isn’t on, so that music and art could be a constant for them.
Music is important to so many young people. Following a particular music style or performer is like a ritual for many teenagers, all about identity, self-discovery and self-expression. It also creates common ground to share with others, at school or at a young carers’ group. The opportunity to experiment with playing an instrument or singing could also be liberating. Learning an instrument to any level requires time commitment that’s probably unrealistic for most young carers – just another pressure – but improvising for fun could be the way to go.
The visual arts might be another outlet. They’re varied – something for everyone – and don’t need regular commitment. Film, photography and digital art might appeal to young people who like technology. Drawing and painting are expressive, absorbing and calming. And drawing in particular is something you can fit into odd moments and come back to whenever possible. It could also encourage young carers to journal, which is therapeutic as a way to express how they feel.
Music and the visual arts could also be interests to share with the person who needs care, something positive to enjoy together if and when possible. For caring for a family member is about relationship, not just an endless list of tasks to complete. This adds to the commitment, maybe creating anxiety and sadness, but also opens up chances for shared closeness, maybe happy interludes as well.
It would be great if you have any thoughts or experiences to share in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002? Thank you.