In their words: Young carer shares their story

Monday 12 December 2022
2 brothers smiling at each other as they sit at the table eating toast

Caring for a parent can be tough, especially when you’re young and especially at Christmas. Young carer, Matthew* shares his experience

Hello, my name is Matthew*. I'm 15 years old, live in Northern Ireland and I'm a young carer. My brother Joel* and I have been caring for our mum for over 6 years now.

Life has changed drastically for us. Our lives were lived, we went out, travelled and threw parties. As fate (or luck) would have it, we lost it all and our hope for the future was stripped away from us, just like that. But our lives didn’t stop – we had to adapt and change. We had to make sacrifices. We lost things we loved but we survived.

What’s it like being a young carer

View of Matthew's arm cooking dinner

Like many young carers, Matthew and Joel have taken on tasks many of their peers don't have to do.

My role now is to take care of my mum. It started off with light help but as her health has declined, our responsibilities increased. I do the cooking and cleaning and support the family as much as possible.

This job we do is tough on all of us.

My mother can’t leave her bed without severe pain. My younger brother gets stressed about leaving the house to hang out with his friends, in fear that something might happen. And me? I'm constantly worried about what tomorrow holds for this family unit.

Now imagine all of that but at a time when everyone is stressed and panic-stricken! At a time when prices are so high, families who've been sitting comfortably are now preserving every last penny.

We were here already. We were already watching the pennies. Now, we’re being submerged by stress and worry, wondering if we’ll even have enough money to keep the lights on. We're a family in need, we’re a family with very little. But we also know there are families out there with even less.

These are the roles we have to play and the love we have for each other is the glue that keeps us together.

Christmas should be about Christmas, not struggling for comfort. This cost of living crisis is affecting kids like me too, not just my family, not just grown ups. But the children feel it too.

Joel*, Matthew’s brother, aged 12

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How Christmas has changed for my family

Staircase decorated for Christmas, a young boy is at the top of the stairs

Though Christmas is different now, Matthew and his family enjoy decorating their house.

Christmas is a time for joy and cheer, and to celebrate our family and friends. This is a mentality we try to keep alive in our home. Even with these price hikes and the cold winter nights, we still try our best.

We’ll decorate our home with festive lights and Christmas gnomes. We’ll play Christmas carols and watch holiday movies to spark a little sense of joy – like we did just a few years ago.

Our Christmas plans are now less exciting, but we enjoy them nonetheless. We decorate the tree with ornaments from years past and string up lights for the world to see. We may not have a lot of money, but we'll make it work.

We have decorations up but there's lack of Christmas cheer. Our festive time is more focused on trying to find heat in this bleak house.


When the decorations are up, the house becomes a wonderland, full of colour and warmth. Christmas is a small break from the stress of day-to-day living and gives us, that life we had, for that small moment. Our time together is the only thing we need because we love and depend on each other.

Young carers: who are they and why do they need support?

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Support from Action for Children

I'm not sure if many people know how important Action for Children is for young carers like me and my brother. Unless you've been in the role of a carer, it's hard to truly understand what it means and the worry that comes with it.

Action for Children make us feel heard, seen and understood. They’ve made a huge difference in our lives by organising events to distract us for a while and let us forget our responsibilities for a while. We’ve done things like to Crazy Golf, Snow Tubing, going to the Pantomime. All these things give us a chance to meet other children and young people going through the same thing, and where we can all just be kids.

They also gave us presents last Christmas, gave us some money for hobbies and have helped our mum with oil, groceries and more.

Action for Children has helped us throughout the last couple of years. They've made us feel supported and like we're not on our own.


Not only this, but they also help by being there for us to talk to and understanding our gloominess or depression. Our support worker was fantastic. She used to check up on us regularly and we both felt like we could tell her anything and that she genuinely cared.

Action for Children has helped us throughout the last couple of years. They’ve made us feel supported and like we're not on our own.

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*Names have been changed to protect their identity.