This week marks Estranged Solidarity Week, for our college peers who are currently estranged from their families, I have a personal interest in this as I have experienced being estranged from my family for a brief time when I was 16 and studying. What is an Estranged student? Here is a quote from the Scottish Funding Council:

An estranged student is someone who no longer has the support of their family due to a breakdown in their relationship which has led to ceased contact. This might mean biological or adoptive parents or wider family members who have been responsible for supporting a student in the past.

Estranged students have no experience of being in care and do not have a corporate parent responsible for them. 

Being estranged can present issues but there is a real sense of achievement when an estranged person manages to overcome the barriers in their way in life. Being estranged from a person’s family can be a really daunting experience, given that estrangement mainly affects people who were reliant on their family for support, it really isn’t too surprising to know that the group who are more severely affected are people between the ages of 16-19.

That doesn’t mean that people who are older than 16-19 are not affected by their estrangement because being estranged, presents different challenges to each person. Each challenge affects people in different ways, some challenges might only affect people in the short term while others can affect people in the mid-long term. I myself, still am affected by my experiences a decade after I was estranged.

Here is a short video from me about my experience being estranged from my family:











Below are just a few ways from my personal experience that being estranged from family can have a really unique impact on a person:

  • Financial - Estranged people are solely responsible for covering the costs of living and have limited access to financial support due to not always being able to get the right documentation. Not to mention that having the ability to save money is made drastically harder as the person has to cover all their living expenses.
  • Emotional - The impact of being cut off from a person's family can be emotionally devastating, and lead to extreme emotions that can be incredibly hard to process and can take years to come to terms with.
  • Social - Being completely removed from the family can lead to someone second-guessing how they interact with others in their social group out of fear of rejection. Or some people after estrangement just completely withdraw into themselves.
  • Day to day skills - One of the problems estrangement can lead to is just not learning some day to day skills you would normally pick up from your family, such as: how to cook, organisational skills, how to do minor home repairs, financial skills such as how to pay certain bills and saving. This can be because like in my case most of the teenage years were spent in constant family turmoil you would never get the chance to pick up these skills.
  • Applying for ID - So if a person has no contact with their family doing things as small as applying for ID can become a real nightmare for instance applying for a passport for the first time requires both parents birth certificates which depending on how unstable the relationship is could be impossible to get from the family. Same issue for a driver's license.
  • Mental health - Becoming estranged from a person's family can be emotionally devastating but it can also be a very traumatic experience and lead to mental health conditions like long-term depression, anxiety, personality disorders. I myself have mental health conditions that were mainly brought on because I was made estranged at a young age.

These problems are just some of the things people who are estranged might have to deal with in their day-to-day life, but there are certain times of the year that can be really hard for estranged people. For instance any major public or religious holiday where most people would come together with their families for a celebration. These times of the year can feel incredibly cruel as it's a stark reminder of what an estranged person doesn't have and it's impossible to not see it in your face everywhere you turn. For instance, around Christmas nearly every tv advert is of a family preparing gifts or eating a meal together.

So in consideration of everything here's just a few things we could all do to help make people who have been estranged from their families lives just a little better:

  • If one of your friends is estranged from their family maybe invite them to hang out from time to time outside of class or work.
  • Try to be conscious that estranged people are facing a lot of financial pressure so if they can't come along to a certain event because it could be a bit expensive even to get there. If that's the case maybe make plans a bit closer to them like a walk around a park that is in their area.
  • If you are wanting to invite a friend around to one of your family's events, just be mindful that if they say no, it might be because they will struggle with being around a family that's not their own. But they will always appreciate the invitation.
  • Making an effort to celebrate parts of their life, for instance making an effort to do something around their birthday or if they complete their course. These moments of celebration are really important to everyone and it can be a hugely uplifting thing for them to still be able to celebrate with their friends.

Estrangement is something that is now starting to be recognized among the community but we can always do these little things that really make a huge impact on an estranged person's life as well. 

Are you an estranged student at Edinburgh College? Join our Care Experienced and Estranged Student group on Teams. Simply fill out our societies form here. There is also support available through the Student Experience Team who you can contact through their virtual student services hub on Teams or get in touch with us in the Students' Association