Have you heard the ADT commercial on TV that says, "When you are worried about things at home, it's impossible to think about anything else?"
ADT is marketing security systems and their message is all about safety. However, how true this message is for caregivers of any age!
You may have heard the term "presenteeism" in reference to adult family caregivers in the work place. It means that the person is physically at work, but is having a tough time keeping his or her mind on work and their productivity suffers as a result.
Is the same not true for students?
A child's real job
I always recall the words of one of the school-age caregivers I worked with who said that every time he heard an ambulance siren while he was in class, he wondered if it was going to his house. Both of his grandparents were ill; his grandfather, with whom he lives, spends most of his time in bed.
Imagine you're eleven years old and you came home from school one day to find your grandma lying unconscious in the backyard. She's your guardian—your mom is no longer living and your dad is nowhere to be found. You've been through more trauma in eleven years than many people experience their whole lives. In the back of your mind there is that nagging thought, "What will happen to me if grandma dies?"
How hard it would be for you to focus—much less learn—when you're constantly worrying whether grandma took her medications when she was supposed to take them, or if she fell and hurt herself and can't get back up.
Imagine having to take a state test or a final exam while consumed with that worry? A job, particularly one with repetitive work, is one thing; needing to use your brain to understand something new is another. Learning is a challenge even without caregiving responsibilities!
Yet is it not the job of a child to learn? Is not that child's future—and therefore society's future—at stake?
Letting kids be kids
Today, perhaps more often than anyone cares to acknowledge, children take on adult responsibilities. They may be assigned grown-up tasks, or there simply may be no one else to do them—such as when a single parent or single grandparent becomes ill. A youth caregiver may also just step up to the plate to be a contributing family member and ease the caregiving burdens of their loved ones. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is the same: students may under-achieve, not complete homework, be excessively absent or late to school, can get held back and may even drop out of school completely.
But it doesn't have to be this way! With recognition, support in school and at home, lives of caregiving children can be transformed and they can achieve academic and personal success.
As adult caregivers, what are your thoughts on how to ease the burden on our younger, school-aged counterparts?