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A Parent Carer’s Christmas

Sarah Lynch, is a Family Project Worker at Midland Mencap, one of Birmingham Carers Hub’s partners. Sarah’s a parent carer herself, she has three boys and one girl, two of which have learning disabilities, so she understands the struggles and the joys of life, all too well.

What’s it like to be a Parent Carer at Christmas?
Christmas can be a difficult time for Carers for many reasons. Children, for example, are not in school. This can become an issue for those Carers that may be quite isolated, with no family or friends around to support.

In addition, the festive period can bring a lot of change – something which can be challenging for those with learning disabilities. Something as simple as going to the supermarket to do the weekly shop can become a huge mountain due to things like the music in the background being different, Christmas items being on the shelves and shops being much busier.

That being said, Sarah pointed out, there have been significant improvements in the last few years for accessibility and accommodating alternatives. For instance, whilst visiting Santa’s Grotto is an activity many families partake in during the Christmas period, it can be quite a demanding experience for those with learning disabilities. Although, there are some garden centres across the West Midlands that, during pre-booking, will offer a space for accessibility suggestions or comments, to support your visit.

Visual aids can also be a beneficial tool for Parent Carers, such as presenting a structure or order of their day, allowing them the time to process any change that might occur. Or, preparing the child(ren) by showing them pictures of Santa, what a Grotto might look like, what sounds might be around and explaining what the experience will entail. Such tools won’t erase their potential difficulties, but they might offer a softer approach that could lead to a smoother day for them and the family.

Sarah explained that many parents – both those who care for others and even those that don’t – feel high amounts of pressure during the Christmas period. From present giving, to cooking the perfect dinner, to ensuring everyone is happy throughout the day. But regardless of if whether things go to ‘plan’ or not – they may not want to open their presents, or they want to eat something different – it’s important not to worry about it.

If, for example, you are due to see family at a certain time, but you know that it simply won’t happen, Sarah recommends you communicate with your family. “I’m pretty sure family will understand. Communication with family and friends, not just with your cared for, will go a long way.”

Ultimately, being a Parent Carer and being part of the Family Carers team at Midland Mencap is hard but rewarding work. “Sometimes the only thing to say to Carers is that it is hard, to give that validation, that ‘what you are doing, Mum, is hard and you should be so proud that you are getting up every day and still doing it’”.

You can find out more about Midland Mencap as well as other support for parent carers on our website here.