Have you ever wondered what a counsellor does to support young carers? Young Carer Counsellor for Wellways Carer Gateway, Chele Yntema, paints us a picture of what happens in the safe space designed for young carers, affectionately known as the ‘Green Room’.

‘Sometimes, these precious young ones are faced with scary situations as they witness escalated reactions and often unintended violence. Though, even when grappling with distress and aloneness, young carers have a level of courage like no other - courage that avails them the compassion to fathom that their sibling/s intend no harm,’ Chele says of the young clients she sees in Brisbane.

The Green Room - a safe, fun space for young carers to play and share

Chele says it’s both a pleasure and a privilege to sit with the younger, more hidden carers amongst us. These carers, who range in age from five to 25 years, are normally responsible for caring for a sibling rather than a parent. The siblings experience a range of challenges from intellectual and/or motor disabilities to congenital disorders. On the odd occasion, Chele supports young carers caring for a parent who often experiences physical and psychological health issues.

In both scenarios, the young carer must often: ‘surrender their needs for attention, connection, reciprocity, and ultimately time from their parents in order for their families to function,’ Chele says.

But even when it feels like the odds are stacked against them, and these young people experience distress and aloneness, they have a ‘level of courage like no other’.

Arts and crafts provide young carers with tools and activities to help share how they're feeling

Chele embraces the ‘sense of self’ philosophy and recognises that in all of us, despite how overwhelming the circumstances are, there is the innate capacity for us to hold onto hope, harmony and happiness. This is especially true of young carers. For their sense of self to evolve, young carers require safe and meaningful interactions. It is Chele’s wish to have each young carer leave the Green Room with a felt sense of being seen, heard, understood, accepted and valued.

What’s the Green Room like?

It is a special room bursting with colour and activity. There are fidgets to fidget, squishies to squish, glitter to sprinkle, slime to stir, and mess that must be made!

‘When we compassionately connect one-to-one, and allow children to play, there is a natural flow of reflection and communication (verbal and non-verbal) that allows the young carer to feel the emotions they have kept hidden,’ Chele says.

What does counselling look like for young carers?

The Carer Gateway Counselling Services are a free service for young carers. Counsellors provide a safe, non-judgmental and understanding space for young carers to reflect on and articulate their experiences through play, drawing, and verbal and non-verbal communication. When young people feel that they matter, even if it's for just one hour each week or fortnight, they naturally find a sense of self and hope, and new ways of coping.

Chele says that we should take a leaf out of any young person’s book – that even in the most desperate of situations, it’s possible to have faith, hope and love.

The Green Room

Carer Gateway is a national support service funded by the Australian Government. It provides free, local services and supports to carers of all ages. Wellways provides Carer Gateway services throughout Queensland and the New South Wales regions of South West Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains.

How to access Carer Gateway

If you or someone you know is a young carer and would like to learn more about these services, our Carer Gateway Queensland and New South Wales teams are available 6am-10pm, 7 days a week. To register call 1800 422 737 or click here for more information.