School's out for summer.
As parents settle into the chaos that is the long stretch of the school holidays, our thoughts turn to those families for whom the holidays create something much more than the daily wrestle of how to entertain the children.
For families who rely on a child for different forms of care, the holidays bring mixed feelings. There is relief that helping hands are around all day, stirred in with the sinking guilt of being unable to create the happy family memories of a far flung holiday, walks on the beach and picnics in the park, those things that their school friends will bounce back into school in September with, brimming with stories of experiences that our young carers can only imagine.
Young carers’ lives become that bit smaller when school is out. No longer the predictable routine of lessons, contact with friends and regular meals, the holidays can be a lonely and isolating time for children providing care. Often unable to bring friends home as they don’t want to let others into the reality of their daily life and limited ability to travel and visit friends independently, young carers spend most of their down time from school at home taking on more responsibilities.
For parents, this is not the life that they would choose for their children, but their choices are few. Being ill or having a disability is pain enough but feeling less of a mum or dad, being unable to provide the childhood experiences that you want for your family, well that hurts too. Planning family time out when you need care can prove a logistical nightmare and leave you recovering for days and weeks after and so, for many, the safest option is to stay at home. Of course, this means that young carers miss out on a lot. Those activities that we take for granted with our own children; a walk to the park, a day out on the train, a paddle in the sea, a baking afternoon, those steadfast pillars of childhood that we build our memories on and learn so much about our parents, our friends, our communities and ourselves, they are missing.
We feel privileged to be able to cement some of those missing experiences for young carers during the holidays. We get to see the smiling faces and hear the whoops of joy as children arrive here to play in the gardens or jump in the minibus to go off on their next adventure with new friends. It is days like these that make it all worthwhile, knowing that the children go home full of exciting stories of how they tried something new, found a great friend or got so tried out from running, climbing and exploring that they fell asleep on the way home. All of these experiences, although not shared with their family directly are definitely shared with them when they get home and give comfort to parents who feel reassured that their children are safe and happy, creating great memories to look back on.
So when you feel frustrated, at the end of your tether and pleading for September, spare a thought for those families who are unable to make the most of their family time. For those of you who are lucky enough to have a wonderful young carer in your life, we are here, ready to help and give time to them, time to be a child.