For many students, the end of the fall semester brings excitement about holiday plans, returning home and seeing individuals they consider family. However, for some students such as those who have experienced foster care, homelessness or who have compromised support systems, navigating the end of the fall term may include additional stressors. The winter break and the holiday season may bring up questions of where they will spend winter break, who they might define as family during this time of year, and how they might choose to celebrate any holidays they identify with.
Society often paints a picture of this time of year in such a way that suggests that everyone should have established traditions, activities to look forward to, and time spent with loved ones. This ideology, however true or false it may be in reality, has the potential to create feelings of inadequacy and questions for those who feel they do not meet this stringent set of guidelines. These feelings are not unique to individuals who have experienced time in foster care or homelessness, as many people have experienced tension within their families and have felt emotionally disconnected at one time or another. However, these feelings may be particularly prevalent for students who have experienced compromised supports. These reflections on past experiences can lead to additional pressure as students consider what this year's winter break will look like for them.
The Blavin Scholars Program at the University of Michigan provides comprehensive supports to students who have experienced foster care as they navigate this and other challenges during their undergraduate experience. Knowing that some Blavin Scholars may not wish to leave campus during winter break, we worked with University Housing to secure on-campus housing for any Scholar who may need it over that time. We have also created Blavin Scholars Program traditions and annual events for students to participate in such as the Gratitude Thanksgiving Dinner and the Blavin Study Day to provide connection and a sense of community, this time of year and all year long! To find out more about the Blavin Scholars Program, please visit our website at blavinscholars.umich.edu.
How can you support your peers who may be experiencing compromised support systems or housing insecurities?
Ask open ended questions about how others will spend winter break. This will help limit assumptions about who may or may not be involved in a student's life and what holidays they may or may not celebrate. This also allows individuals to share what they feel comfortable with and at a pace they are comfortable with.
Consider new traditions such as Friendsgiving. Host a potluck with friends and share meals together to create a new tradition of Thanksgiving or Gratitude Sharing.
Visit University Housing to find out about gap housing options.