Relationships when you are a young carer
Relationships play an important part in all our lives. Think back to when you first started school. Who was your best friend? Is it still the same person today? You may find that while you’re looking after someone who has cancer, your relationships with friends and family will change.
Written by people who've been in your shoes
The advice in this section has been written by people who are under 18 and caring for someone with cancer. You can download their complete handbook - A guide for young people looking after someone with cancer [PDF, 2.52 MB].
Try not to worry about any changes. All relationships change and develop over time. Some drift away, while others grow stronger. You’ll probably experience both.
Talking to friends about cancer can be scary. We all reacted the same way at first. We hid away. We were in shock. We needed time to think things through. You might have done that too.
When we did talk to our friends, we thought they wouldn’t understand what we were going through. But we were wrong.
If you decide to talk to your friends about your situation:
- you’ll have someone to talk to when you’re stressed without feeling guilty
- you won’t have to make excuses if you cancel on them
- they’ll know to back off if you’re having a bad day
- you’re less likely to bottle things up.
Some friends never knew. They couldn’t support me because they didn’t realise anything was wrong. Looking back, I think I should have talked to them more.
You may not want to tell all your friends straight away. But talking to one or two very close friends is a great place to start. Your best friends should accept you no matter what. And they will help you feel normal, which is really important.
Be prepared that your friends may react differently – no two people are the same. Some people will take it in their stride. Others may not know what to say to you. They may need time to take it in, just as you did.
No one mentioned it in the house at all. I think we didn’t want to upset each other.
It’s likely that the person you’re helping care for is your mum or dad, your brother or sister, or one of your grandparents – someone who lives in your house, or who you see often.
It will take time for you all to come to terms with the cancer. The most important thing is to try to work through it together. We found talking to each other and spending time together as a family helped.
Try to do all the normal things you did before. Don’t feel bad if you have arguments with your family, including the person you’re caring for. This is a normal part of family life.
It’s also important not to do everything for the person you’re caring for. They’ll still want to be independent if they can.
Other members of your family may also want to help, so don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself. There are lots of ways they can lend a hand. If they tidy the house or do the shopping, it will give you a break and help them feel that they’re supporting you.
Boyfriends and girlfriends
If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, they may be someone you can talk to about your situation. Spending time with them, for example going to the cinema or listening to music together, can also give you a break from being a young carer for a little while. You could even ask them to help you with the extra stuff you have to do at home. They might help you carry the shopping, mow the lawn, or take the dog for a walk. Don’t be afraid to ask them for support.
Being in a relationship can be cool and something just for you. But it can also be painful. If things aren’t going well, or if you split up, it can really hurt. This can be an added pressure if you’re caring for someone who has cancer.
You may feel guilty for getting upset about your relationship. You may feel that you can’t talk about it at home because it seems unimportant compared with what your family’s going through. But what happens in your life is still important. You’re allowed to have feelings about things other than cancer. Cancer may be a huge part of your life right now, but it’s not your whole life.