This month we want to provide information on the support that our students who are estranged from their family members can access in the lead up to Christmas and the festive break. Estranged students are young people studying without the support of a family network and who have no communication with their family. Every estrangement looks and feels different and has its own set of circumstances.
If you’re estranged, this time of year might come with its own challenges. We want you to know that you’re not alone, and offer you support and guidance as you navigate this time of year.
Make a plan for the Christmas period
Whether you’re recently estranged or have been for a long time, the thought of Christmas can trigger lots of different emotions. Whilst it might feel like everyone is going ‘home’ for Christmas, recent research shows that 1 in 5 families are affected by estrangement – it’s much more common than you think. Having a plan in place for Christmas Day and the surrounding days can help you to navigate this time. Here are a few different ways you can spend this time:
- Spend it with friends and create new Christmas traditions
- Volunteer with a local charity to support those in need – check out the Christmas Closure pages for some ideas
- Reach out to local support groups who have planned an alternative Christmas Day
- Spend the day doing activities you enjoy
- Connect with others who aren’t going ‘home’ for Christmas – keep reading for more information below
Supporting your wellbeing
If you are finding this period of time difficult, remember the importance of being kind to yourself and keeping up with your regular self-care routines which can help give your days some structure. So, whether that’s going to the gym, taking yourself on long walks, cooking cosy meals or spending time with friends – prioritise what makes you feel good and give yourself extra-care this time of year.
Our six ways to wellbeing are a useful tool to help you find a routine that supports your wellbeing through six key themes: connect, give, take notice, be active, be healthy and learn and discover. We also have lots of tools online to help you take care of yourself during difficult times. Find out what’s on offer.
Reach out to those in a similar position
It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re estranged, especially during Christmas time. It can be helpful to connect with others who are in similar circumstances to help manage these feelings. At the uni, we’ve got tailored support available for estranged students, including meet-ups with others in a similar situation. Whilst everyone’s experience of estrangement is different, talking to those who get it can help you feel less alone. If you have already engaged with this support, your named contact Ailsa will be sending out information around festive meetups and other support over Christmas to your student email address in the next couple of weeks.
Additionally, if you’re staying in Manchester over Christmas, then the International Society have some great Christmas events including a meet-up on Friday 16 and Wednesday 28 December to bring to get students together over the festive period.
There are also lots of groups outside of the uni that support people who are estranged. Stand Alone is a UK-based charity that hosts workshops and meet ups, alongside undertaking research and championing support for estranged students. In recent years, there’s been more conversation about estrangement, and groups like Sali Hughes’ Necessary Family Estrangement on Facebook have become places for likeminded adults to connect about their shared experiences.
Making new traditions
If you can, we invite you to think of new traditions to help you celebrate in your own way. This might be cooking a favourite meal to share with friends, going on a wintery walk on Christmas Day around the city, volunteering, meeting up with others who are also staying on campus, setting goals for the year ahead or taking part in a new activity you want to try.
Whilst Christmas can be a difficult time if you’re estranged, it also offers you the opportunity to shape your Christmas the way you want it to look and feel. That might be ordering your favourite take-away wrapped up on the sofa, or meeting new people and trying out their traditions. However, you spend this festive period, we hope you find a way to make it your own.
Asking for help
Remember the support that’s available to you, throughout the Christmas period, and reach out if you need to. We understand that taking the first step and asking for help can be difficult, so we’ve got lots of ways you can access support which we’ve listed on our Christmas Closure webpages. You can also visit our Student Support webpages which has lots of online tools to help you manage your wellbeing during the Christmas break.
If you’re not already accessing support as an estranged student and would like to find out more about the specific support that the university offers for this group of students, please visit this page.