The festive season has well and truly arrived, and it’s an exciting time of the year for lots of people. But for many children in care and care leavers, Christmas can be a bit of a tricky time, so we’re sharing some tips – written by a care leaver – to help you get through the coming weeks and make the most of it.

1. Be kind to yourself.

You’re probably sick of hearing this by now, but I can’t stress enough what a difference it makes to your life when you start to show yourself some love. This doesn’t always have to be a candle lit bath or a yoga class. If getting a take-out coffee and going for a walk, taking a midday nap, or watching videos on YouTube for a couple of hours brings you joy, then go for it – we all look after ourselves in different ways!

2. Reach out when you want to.

Human beings are social creatures. This means that we crave interaction and connection. If you’re missing a friend over Christmas then it is likely that they are missing you too. Please don’t feel like you are burdening them whilst they are spending the holidays with their family. We’ve just been through lockdown number two, so they’ll have had plenty of family time and chances are they are craving somebody to talk to as much as you are.

3. It’s okay if you want to be alone.

On the flip side of this, enjoying spending time being alone is so healthy and empowering. It’s something that everybody wishes they could achieve, but many of us are not able to do. So if you would rather go it alone this Christmas then good for you! I remember being asked to join an organised Christmas Dinner, or whether I wanted to have a care leaver pen pal, and at the time it just wasn’t for me – and that’s fine!

4. Nobody’s Christmas is as perfect as their Instagram suggests.

We’ve all been there, scrolling through our phones and wondering how some people can have such a perfect life. Well, they don’t. It is so easy to take a photo and pop a filter on it, but it’s just not real life. Please rest assured that people only choose to show the very best of what they want you to see. Nobody is uploading photos of their family feuds and burnt Christmas turkeys!

5. Use the services that are available to you.

We’ve put together a list of helplines and services that you may want or need over the Christmas period. Please remember that these services are there for people exactly like you, and that you are completely entitled to make use of them. A lot of the time as a care leaver I had no idea about some of these organisations, so that’s why we’ve created a one-stop-shop for many of the services that you may find helpful.

6. Remember that it will all be over and done within a couple of weeks.

In the UK, the build up to Christmas has become bigger than the event itself! Christmas only lasts a day, and then we all move on and focus on the New Year. Sometimes it helps me to remember that the low point will pass and everybody will have forgotten about it in a couple of weeks. Until then, try some of the points above to get you through the Christmas period, and make big plans for a brand New Year. Here’s to 2021!