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IMO (In My Opinion), the Children’s Commissioner’s digital offering for teenagers in care and care leavers, ran a recent competition asking for messages of support for care experienced young people over Christmas. The IMO community responded with such meaningful advice and insights, sharing what has helped them over the Christmas period and what Christmas means to them, including what they like doing over the holiday and their favourite Christmas treat. This collection of messages and ideas for things to do is for any care experienced young person to provide some comradery and positivity to the festive period:

“Remember that you can create memories with yourself, you are the most important person to you! If you’re in a place where you feel lonely or out of place, be sure to show yourself some Christmas kindness.

Run a bubble bath, play some music and have a dance, get yourself a gift, treat yourself! And remember that each year brings new things, where you are right now isn’t where you’ll always be.

However, I learned that I was putting too much pressure on Christmas, when it comes down to it, it’s just a day of the year! This helped me to appreciate the smaller things like a Christmas movie and a hot chocolate (and a day off work!)

My favourite Christmas treat has to be a winter spice latte, the cinnamon flavour warms me during the winter months and feels like a warm hug” – Kirstie, 24.

“I found what helped me over Christmas was being in a home environment where I feel safe and loved and having time with my carer and her family and being to able to feel happy and comfortable.

Christmas to be is about being around positive people and people who you know care about you.

Over the Christmas period I like spending time with family and friends and having a laugh together and my favourite treat is chocolate Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes” – Evie, 17.

“Don’t feel alone this Christmas! There are so many people around you that want to help you and want to support you. Have a wonderful time with friends, family and loved ones as this is the time of year where everything is celebrated! Things may have not gone to plan, but that was in the past. Learn from it, stay supported and enjoy yourself. You deserve it!

Christmas means a lot to me. It’s the time for celebration, where I can chill with my friends, be with family members and get presents. I love being able to go down to my friends at Boxing Day and celebrating with them as it’s another group of people that I consider my family.

My favourite Christmas treat is Lebkuchen which is a German gingerbread cookie” – Robert, 23.

“Christmas is a tough time for those estranged from and/or don’t have family to go too. But it’s not all about your blood family; you can choose your own family. Who do you enjoy spending time with? Who makes the best roast dinner? Who makes you feel loved? I’ve spent many Christmases alone and having a connection through text or FaceTime or even social media helps me loads.

Being a person of faith, I believe in the birth of Christ being vital. But Christmas is all about new beginnings. It’s about love. It’s about bingeing out on good food! I love watching all the films it’s unacceptable in society to watch all year round” – Louise, 27.

“Christmas is supposed to be joyous and happy, however often it’s not. Maybe you had to leave home for circumstances way out of your control but that doesn’t mean they and others don’t love you – it means they can’t care for you. But the greatest love of all is self-love. You are strong and you are brave. I love you all – Merry Christmas, have a good one, stay safe.

Christmas this year has had the meaning changed due to having a baba and watching the magic in his little eyes, however Christmas is about the family or friends you spend it with – it’s about celebrating with your family” – Shauna, 21.

“Hi everyone. Although Christmas can be a hard time for all of us, do not forget that we have each other and that you are not alone. Throughout Christmas you may encounter hard times and sad times, but remember that you are amazing and that you can do anything and overcome anything.

You’ve got this guys and Happy Christmas!

For me Christmas is a wonderful time. Ever since I got adopted by my foster carers and I came to them in 2007 they have given me the most amazing Christmases that they can. So, for me Christmas is about coming together and family and helping each other as no matter what we are all amazing and we need to spread a bit of love over this winter season” – Nathan, 23.

“You do belong somewhere and you do matter. All year round. To someone. Even if that someone has to be yourself for many years. Value yourself and learn to love yourself for the unique way your mind works, the unique way your body is shaped and all the little quirks and funky bits of personality that make up you. There is space for you in this world and you matter more than you know.

I like creating my own Christmas traditions – well, I actually celebrate Yule and the winter season. I try and take life slower and be kinder to myself over Christmas (learnt a lot about that from Dr Rachel at the Rees Foundation Surviving winter sessions). We aren’t built to go at full steam at this time of year. Pretty much every other animal and living being goes slower or hibernates. So take it easy” – Ira.

“No matter how hard you find Christmas, remember there is always someone to talk to… Don’t keep your feelings to yourself.

Personally, I don’t celebrate Christmas but I enjoy watching others be happy and enjoying great company” – Richard, 24.

“Reach out to people, don’t ever feel like you are alone, join some care leaver forums and talk to other care leavers over Christmas.

Keep yourself busy, watch Christmas films, make a hot chocolate, go for a walk or do some baking.

Christmas means spending time with those who are most important to you and those you love. I like staying in my pyjamas, watching Christmas films & having a hot chocolate. My favourite Christmas treat is an advent calendar. What is more exciting than a chocolate to count down until Christmas Day? I also like festive hot chocolates and making a gingerbread house” – Sophie, 25.

“Don’t be alone. Christmas can be a hard time for all of us, but reach out to people and spend some time with others. You can choose who to spend them with – don’t feel forced into a situation you don’t like. Spend some time relaxing with people you like whether that’s friends, family or even old carers. There are places out there for you to share a meal and have some company.

I like to spend Christmas with my old carers – they support me through the period and together we eat Christmas dinner and exchange gifts. It’s nice to see the whole family and spend some time together. My favourite Christmas treat are Cadbury snowballs” – Georgegina.

“What I find helpful over Christmas is being around family and friends having a laugh and what I also found helpful is to chill and watch movies with lots of munchies.

What Christmas means to me is family – I love to see family over Christmas then come home, put my feet up with a good movie and munchies and a brew. My favourite treat at Christmas is pigs in blankets and boxes of chocolate” – Jade, 23.

“I have found that spending time with the people that matter to me has massively improved my Christmas time.

Christmas to me means spending time with my family. I love going to Christmas markets and seeing my siblings’ faces light up. My favourite Christmas treat would definitely be the marzipan off the Christmas cake!” – Vikki, 24.

“I found that passion for things I loved help, such as I write songs or stories so I would make Christmas special ones.

The meaning of Christmas to me is being with people you like. I like to sing to Christmas songs and my favourite activity is making paper chains, each year I try to beat my previous length. My favourite Christmas treat is mince pies” – Jana, 19.

“I have found being around a lot of people during Christmas has helped me a lot. Some activities which involve a lot of people are going to Christmas markets, shopping and going for meals out with a lot of people.

Christmas means for me, spending a lot of time with loved ones, whether that be family or carers. Christmas means looking forward to things. I enjoy present buying and wrapping. And I love baking Christmas cakes. My favourite is apple pie or a gingerbread man” – Kylie, 17.

“Being grateful for seeing my family when other people can’t.

1.) To me Christmas means giving.

2.) Watching Christmas movies.

3.) Pizza and chips” – Shania, 17.

“Remembering that family does not have to be those you are related to but those who make you feel loved, respected, supported and valued. It’s ok to also choose to spend Christmas by yourself doing and eating what you love! Your happiness trumps all!

Christmas can be difficult, I used to feel sad and lonely. However, I realised over the years that I may not have the same family dynamic as others, but I can still make the most of it by making it my own. So, I like challenging myself to cook something new and make a feast sometimes just for myself or for friends. I do like cake and ice cream whilst watching my favourite Christmas and Disney movies” – Aishat, 24.

“Putting myself first and understanding that not every Christmas will be the same. Now that I’m a young adult I am building my own traditions for Christmas.

Christmas means love to me. It’s the time of the year where you show love and appreciation to everyone you have around you: pets, friends, family, partners… During Christmas I enjoy binge-watching Christmas movies, eating lots of food and playing games especially Monopoly! My favourite Christmas treat is Ferrero Rochers!” – Lauren, 23.

“What helped me throughout the many Christmases without my family was living so close to some friends (I know I’m lucky) and we could hang around each Christmas and just having people to smile with – oh, and Harry Potter helped me too.

Christmas to me is a time for family – I lost my grandad around Christmas time and each Christmas I light a candle for him. And the whole family get together and it’s good to see people I’ve not seen for many months” – Tyrone, 21.

During the festive period you may want to reach out for support and advice. Every child with a social worker, in care and those who have left care can reach out to the Children’s Commissioner’s free and independent advice and advocacy service ‘Help at Hand’. The Help at Hand team will be available over the Christmas period to provide help, advice and advocacy. The phone line can be accessed on 0800 528 0731 or you can email at: [email protected] or use their online contact us form.

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