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What is a kinship carer?
How are kinship caring arrangements made?
How can I support the children when I am grieving too?
How can I look after myself?
What can we do together to remember the parent or carer who has died?
How can we build new memories together?
Why is keeping to a routine important?
How can I deal with children's anger?
How do I deal with difficult behaviour?
Should I speak to other family members?
How can I get support?

What is a kinship carer?

A kinship carer is a close relative who looks after a child because their parent is not able to or has died. They are sometimes referred to as ‘family and friends carers’.

According to Kinship, around half of kinship carers are grandparents, but they can also be friends, aunt, uncles, and older siblings.

While a kinship carer cannot replace the parent that has died, it is possible to create a supportive family structure.


How are kinship caring arrangements made?

We didn't talk much about it. It was what I needed to do.



- Kirsty, who became kinship carer for her brothers after their mother died.

If someone is not expected to live, kinship caring arrangements may be made in advance but they can also be made after someone has died.

Arrangements can include:

  • Living in an informal arrangement made by the parent(s)/carer(s)
  • Children who are looked after by the local authority and are placed with kinship foster carers
  • Children who are the subject of Child Arrangements Orders or Special Guardianship Orde

Whether the arrangement is made before or after the death, it can be helpful to get advice to help you with financial, legal and practical issues. You can contact Kinship’s Helpline on 0300 123 7025 or email: [email protected]


    How can I support the children when I am grieving too?

    I always shared my feelings with Shaneeka, I didn’t think twice about letting tears flow in front of her because she appreciated that.



    - Vivienne, who cares for her granddaughter Shaneeka after Shaneeka’s mother died.

    Although you may have a close relationship with the child or children for whom you are caring, forming a new family may still be challenging, especially as you may be juggling looking after the children and helping them through their grief while also grieving yourself. As a kinship carer it’s important to recognise this, to listen and to give one another time.

    Children look to the adults around them for cues on how to behave. They will decide from this whether it’s OK to talk about their bereavement and to show their emotions. Be honest and show them that it’s OK to feel sad but also to have different feelings at different times.

    For further guidance: Supporting bereaved children and young people


    How can I look after myself?

    I became really focussed. I felt I had a job to do.  I threw myself into coping and organising and felt I had to suppress my own grief for the sake of my siblings



    - Kirsty

    Managing life and your own grief at the same time as being a kinship carer can be exhausting. Don't expect too much of yourself – try to focus on managing one day at a time. What do you find helps you? Try to find a way of making some time for yourself to recharge your batteries. Some kinship carers find it difficult to find the time to do this, but it will ultimately help you be better placed to support the child or children.

    Accept any offers of help. Keep a list of jobs that need doing to help you answer when people ask ‘Is there anything I can do?’.

    For further guidance:  Looking after yourself


    What can we do together to remember the parent or carer who has died? 

    One thing we never did was shut down any talk about her mum. We would talk to her about her mum and tell her that, no matter how she was feeling or how sad she felt, she could tell us. We allowed her to cry if she needed to; if she was upset, we’d hold her and let her cry it through.



    - Vivienne

      When someone dies, our feelings for them and memories of them stay alive and active inside us. Finding ways to remember the person who has died can aid the grieving process for both you and the children for whom you are caring. 

      Memories make a big difference; children can worry that they will forget the person and are helped greatly when they are supported to remember things they and others did with their parent before they died. Some things that your child might find helpful are:

      • Looking with you at photographs of their parent or carer who has died
      • Sharing family stories or memories of events involving the child and their parent or carer
      • Choosing and being able to keep an item of clothing worn by their parent
      • Playing music their parent or carer loved
      • Making a scrapbook about their parent or carer
      • Making a collage of pictures of their parent or carer 
      • Putting together a memory box with each child in the family containing tangible reminders of their parent or carer. This is the child’s personal collection of reminders of who their parent or carer was and what they meant to them. It also gives a child a sense of having some control back in their lives as they choose what does and what doesn’t go into their memory box.

      For further guidance: Remembering


      How can we build new memories together?

      Don’t be afraid of making changes and starting to build new memories with the child or children, but do so cautiously. Recognise family traditions and don’t try to start from scratch – for example if the children have particular traditions for special occasions or festivals, it may be wise to talk to the children about what they would like to do – whether they would like to keep some of them, and/or make some new traditions together. 


      Why is keeping to a routine important? 

      When someone dies, a child’s sense of safety is rocked, and changes to their living arrangements can make children feel even more insecure. As far as possible, try to keep to normal routines which will help them feel safe. It can be helpful to include them in simple decisions and particularly in decisions that affect them. 

      When someone has died, children often worry that something might happen to other adults in their lives, so communication is key. For example, if you’re going out, tell them when you will be back and stick to this to reassure them.


      How can I deal with children's anger? 

      One of my brothers told me he hated the fact he felt I was 'replacing' our mum and that someone he saw as an older sibling was now telling him what to do as a parent.  I found that really hard too.



      - Kirsty

      Children may direct their anger and resentment towards you, which can be hurtful. Let them know that it’s normal to feel angry but it’s not OK to hurt themselves, you, or anyone else. Help them find safe ways to release their anger such as physical exercise.  It may help a teenager to speak to someone outside the family unit about their feelings.


      How do I deal with difficult behaviour? 

      It is important to maintain usual boundaries of behaviour and respect. It is not unusual for children to be challenging, such as by refusing to do something and saying, “You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not my mum/dad.” Try not to rise to this; instead, respond calmly, and acknowledge the situation. You might say: “I understand how difficult this is for you and that you loved your mum/dad. I am never going to replace your mum/dad, but I am here for you and I want the best for you.


      Should I speak to other family members?

      Whether the child has been able to stay at their school or they have had to move, it can be helpful to speak to the school so that teachers and other staff who interact with the child have a good understanding of the new family structure, the child’s bereavement and how they can help support them.


      How can I get support? 

      For further information on supporting a bereaved child, call our Helpline: 0800 02 888 40 or use the Live Chat function on this website.


      > Find support near you

      > Child Bereavement UK support services

      > About our Helpline

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