Mixed Feelings in Children who Contribute to Caregiving


The team of the Caregiving Youth Project just completed Camp Treasure XVII—a time for caregiving youth to be away from their responsibilities and have time to relax, learn a little, and most of all have the chance to enjoy just being a kid.

On a Friday afternoon, volunteers pick up sixth grade students with early dismissal and bring them to camp where they meet, for the first time, their AmeriCorps counselors and peers from other schools. They have already learned they are not alone in their school, now the world broadens and they meet and make friends with caregiving youth from other middle schools.

After all the campers arrive, the whole group of about 50 gathers in the main activity room to review basic rules and make introductions. Prior to dinner, each adult and child makes a first name self-introduction and states one thing for which they are thankful.

This past weekend two boys struck my heart chord. One said he's thankful that "my father is still around" and another said, "That my mother hasn't had another stroke."

Some people may think that children, whether or not they contribute to caregiving, are unaware of or not affected by the health conditions of their loved ones. Not so!

It is normal for a child, from the perspective of self-security, to wonder, "What's going to happen to me?" (If my mom has another stroke and dies). For others, in addition to their acute level of awareness, it's the incredible sense of gratitude for each day they have to spend with their family member.

But we can't ignore those that fall into the other group; the ones who anticipate a time of relief when their loved one breathes no longer. The caregivers in this group are far less verbal as they are filled with frustration and anger at their circumstances.

Both child and adult family caregivers may move between positive and painful emotions, as they progress along their caregiving journey. Let us remember that whatever feelings belong to a family caregiver at the time, it is OK. They are having normal feelings. Feelings are just that, expressions of current feelings; they are not representative of the inner core of the person or reflective of the overall relationship.

Regardless of age~ love, accept and support a family caregiver today!

Connie Siskowski, RN, PhD has a broad background in health care and a dedication to diminishing caregiving ramifications for family caregivers of all ages. Her passion led to the establishment of a nonprofit that evolved from supporting homebound adults and caregiving families to become the American Association for Caregiving Youth.

American Assoc. for Caregiving Youth

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It is apparent to me that after having my mother live with me for 10+ years that I will be greatly 'affected' in a more intense 'way' than my brothers who live 1000 miles away and have not contributed to her care in any way. There is almost no words for the toll it takes on a full-time, hands-on caregiver. Grieving from afar (unseen) is less devastating from the caregiver who deals with making decisions 24/7 and caring one-on-one. Let's no kid anyone.