Living in a Grown-up World: An Exploration of the Realities of Young People Providing Care and Implications for a Canadian Context
Henry, Kevin J.
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A large number of young people provide developmentally inappropriate care to parents or other family members with physical and mental health challenges, which may include substance abuse and stressful life events. Called ‘young carers’, these individuals take on many household tasks and also provide emotional support to the loved ones in their care. The demands of caregiving take both a physical and emotional toll upon young carers, who also face a variety of environmental and psychosocial challenges including low socioeconomic status, social isolation, and poor performance in school. These factors appear to be more acute when young people provide care around mental health conditions. At the same time, the literature identifies benefits from caregiving at a young age, such as enhanced relationships with care recipients and problem-solving skills. In supporting young carers, the literature from the Western English-speaking world provides insight into potential interventions and a course of action for the Canadian context, in which educators play a key role. This paper concludes with a reflection on how interventions identified in the literature may be applied to various levels of the British Columbia public education system and potential obstacles in advancing the status of young carers in Canadian society.