Thinking back, I did get an answer to my question. It was something like: ‘A carer is someone looking after a child, but they are not the parent’. That answer was just not good enough! I was a determined child with a strong temperament and that weak answer was not what I wanted relayed to other curious children when asking the question what is a carer?
Honestly, I can empathise with parents and teachers and their concerns around exposing other children to the complexities of what the word ‘carer’ means. Why should a child living happily with their parent/s have to understand what the word ‘carer’ means? And I don’t just mean; the isolated five letter word but rather the experiences that come with the word. Or to put more bluntly, why should a happy eight years old child have to empathise with the difficult early life experience of another eight years old child? I completely understand how someone could have this argument. On the flip side I also know how much pressure it is for a child to go about their day, playing, learning and all the while worrying about their parent and having no way of articulating to their classmates that they are struggling from being away from their mum or dad (in my case) and being looked after by a ‘carer’
Throughout my childhood I expressed my frustration and pain in many ways; mainly anger and confusion but rarely sadness and I continued to communicate this way rather than talk to my peers well into my early twenties. What if in 2002 my teacher had an open but non-personalised discussion in the classroom about what a ‘carer’ was, would it have helped eight years old me feel, understood, normal and supported? The answer is I don’t know, but it is worth considering.
I wonder if avoiding sensitive topics from an early age create barriers between children which then evolves into stigmas at different stages in our lives and well into adulthood?
How do we as teachers, parents and role models, initiate child friendly and impactful conversations with school children about sensitive issues/topics such as; disabilities, foster care and overall differences.
Doing this would help to remove stigma and would teach children compassion and understanding – valuable skills for life.