How to Let a Teacher Know You’re a Young Carer
Do you find that school has to take a backburner to family issues? Are you nervous to go into another semester because someone in your family is ill, and it feels like your studies will only get in the way? If you feel like you are responsible for making sure someone is staying healthy and happy, you might be a young caregiver!
The time, worry, and stress of helping a family member who is unwell can make keeping up in school all but impossible, but it doesn’t have to. The main obstacle is often not wanting to ask for help. Here are a few tips for informing a teacher that you are a carer, and asking for accommodations. They’re written primarily for high school, CEGEP, and university students, but parents of younger children can follow these same steps to inform their childrens’ teachers.
Beginning of the Year
It’s best to mention your caring role earlier rather than later. That means that when you’re in a stressful time, you won’t have to start from zero; they’ll already be aware of your situation. Taking the initiative so that you and your teacher don’t have any surprises can help make sure your learning isn’t disrupted.
Where to Start
Staying after class or even asking for a one-on-one meeting can help you make sure you have the privacy you need. One way to phrase this is that you’d like a meeting to “introduce yourself and mention some of your needs as a student.”
How do I say this?
It can feel awkward to ask in advance for help at first. That’s normal! But all you’re asking for is a bit of consideration. Phrasing your request in terms of “my needs as a student” is useful because it makes it clear that your request is the same as any request for accessibility and flexibility.
Don’t Feel the Need to Over Explain
Telling every aspect of your story to several people can be exhausting. You can explain that a loved one is going through a tough time, or your parent is having health complications, or you’ve had to take on extra work at home, with as much or as little detail as you feel comfortable with. At the end of the day, what a teacher needs to know is how the situation might affect your education, not the details or diagnoses involved.
Focus on Your Needs
Next, tell them what your needs might be: do you need more flexibility in case an emergency pops up? Or more time, because you know you have very limited hours to do homework? They might be able to help you find resources to lower your caring responsibilities, or offer simple things, like a quiet place to do your reading or an extension on an assignment.
What Can My Teacher do to Help?
Your teacher should be able to hear what your limitations are, see where they could affect your learning, and think of some ways to help. They may need a little time to consider this, or be unfamiliar with the term “young carer,” so here are some suggestions for ways teachers can help young carers:
- More flexibility with deadlines, especially if appointments or other responsibilities will be particularly intense before the due date Sending home learning materials if you are tired or absent
- Avoiding rewards for perfect attendance, because there are many reasons students are absent or late, and they are rarely in the student’s control
- Allow for phone use in class if you are waiting for news from your loved one
- Referring students to health and social services to help you or your family
Above all, your teacher can gain an understanding of young carers generally and your situation in particular so that they can empathize and provide practical solutions. They can learn more here: amiquebec.org/youngcarers.
Will Telling My Teacher Get My Family in Trouble?
A lot of young carers are worried about telling someone about the work they do for their families because they think it might lead to judgment or even intervention by child protective services. While your teacher has a duty to report if you are in danger or are being mistreated, teachers can help you assess whether the impact on you could be lessened. You are not alone! Half of all Quebecers will be caregivers at some point.
The Due Date is Tomorrow Morning and I Haven’t Started
People hand in assignments late, or forget assignments for all kinds of reasons. If you can, informing your teacher as soon as possible is always a good idea.
I’m Falling Behind Because of My Caregiving Role and My Teacher Doesn’t Know
It’s okay if you haven’t told your teacher yet. The sooner you can let them know that you need a little more flexibility, the better. They might be able to adjust the weighting of assignments, their due dates, or find a balance if there’s too many assignments for you to finish them all. This sort of adjustment for students having a hard time keeping up is a regular part of their job and you are entitled to some accommodations.
Caring for one another is what family is all about—it is normal. But when it is negatively impacting your life, your teachers can be an important support for you.
– Oliver Fitzpatrick, Young Carers Coordinator at AMI-Quebec
Hi Professor, my name is Oliver, I am in your [class name/ number]. I was hoping to set up an introductory meeting to discuss my needs as a student. As well as my studies, I am responsible for a significant amount of my [relation]’s [diagnosis, if you’d like] care.
Some things that typically interfere in my ability to succeed in my studies are:
- Strict absentee/late policies
- Not having access to my phone, since my loved one needs to be able to contact me throughout the day in case of emergency
- Scheduling conflicts with appointments I accompany my loved one to
I’m happy to come in during your office hours to discuss further.
Thank you, Oliver
Sign up for our emails to stay in touch
Please also follow us on: