Children’s Mental Health Week: Life as a Sibling Carer

A woman with black jumper saying 'Mental Health Matters'

As part of Children’s Mental Health Week, we spoke to H about her daughter R, who is a sibling carer for her younger sister, G.

H and her two daughters, R (10) & G (8), live in Bristol, and as a family, they love to spend time together, R loves giving piggybacks to G and they love clapping hands together. 

H spoke to us about how being a sibling carer affects R’s mental health and what it means for her. 

Having a disabled child undoubtedly affects a sibling’s life and can present mental health challenges for them. Our daughter sees the struggles we go through with our disabled child. Partly through attending to their care needs, but mainly from the lack of proper support. It’s inevitable that some of our stress filters through to her, and that’s a lot for a young mind to take on.

Our daughter spends a lot of time on her own at home, as our disabled child’s care needs are so high, and we don’t all spend time together in one room or ever eat meals together. This isolation is not good for a growing mind.

Two people sat opposite each other with their hands together.

So far, our daughter seems quite well-balanced and secure, with good self-esteem, which we are grateful for, but it is a worry to think how the events from her early life will affect her as an adult. We try our best to promote good mental health. We just hope things work out for her and her experiences in life don’t cause her big mental health challenges in the future.

Our children have an excellent relationship, and luckily our oldest daughter doesn’t resent her younger sister. I think it’s because they are quite close in age, and she can never remember a time that her sister wasn’t here. I can imagine if the age gap were bigger it would be more of a problem.

My oldest daughter understands her sister is vulnerable and not to blame for any of the struggles we all face, so she doesn’t hold any of the negative elements of our lives against her. They have a lovely relationship and I love seeing them together. I think it’s important to be aware of the impact being a carer can have on a sibling and as a parent you are always going to worry but as long as you’re checking in and letting them know you’re there. 

There are 800,000 young carers in the UK today (Sense, 2023).

Sense offer support and activities to young carers and siblings of people with disabilities. They hold virtual book clubs or games nights for sibling carers, or they can attend a wellbeing session if they’d like to talk to someone. Access their support hub here

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