This paper reports key findings from a study of young people’s engagement in ‘atypical’ activities in their families. The project focused on young caring and language brokering as two roles that are not assumed to be ‘normal’ activities for children and young people. The findings presented are from a survey of 1002 young people and from one‐to‐one interviews with a sample selected from the survey sample. The voices of young people in the interview study are used in the paper to illustrate the diverse range of childhood experiences. The paper discusses some of the ways in which pastoral systems in schools can take account of diverse childhoods and family needs more effectively than they have done in the past.