Families: Charity braces itself for Christmas calls

National charity Family Lives is bracing itself for an increase in calls to its Parentline service over the festive period from families in crisis.

Statistical show that since over the last four Christmas holiday periods:

l Calls about couple disagreements – with current or former partners – have increased by 5.38 per cent. Couple disagreements generally are higher over Christmas and the New Year (12.63 per cent), compared to all long calls throughout a non-festive quarter (11 per cent).

l Feelings of isolation amongst adult callers have increased by 5.36 per cent. Isolation calls are higher over Christmas and the New Year (eight per cent), compared to all long calls throughout a non-festive quarter (6.38 per cent).

l Calls regarding abuse directed to the adult carer – whether from child or partner – have increased by 2.25 per cent. Abuse related calls are higher over Christmas and the New Year (5%), compared to any non-festive quarter (four per cent).

l Calls about child mental health issues have increased by almost 10 per cent since Christmas 2007.

l Calls concerning divorce issues affecting children increased by 3.23 per cent since Christmas 2007. Divorce issues affecting children over Christmas and the New Year is higher (14.53 per cent), compared to all long calls throughout a non-festive quarter (13.78 per cent).

Calls concerning conflict–with between siblings or parents – has increased by 4% since Christmas 2007

Family Lives chief executive Jeremy Todd said: “Christmas can be a stressful occasion for parents and children alike.

“Whether the pressure to be the perfect parent is taking its toll, visiting relatives is difficult or the stress children themselves feel as they spend the festive period travelling between resident and non-resident parents.

“51 per cent of calls to our helpline are from single parents and we know from experience that children may often feel caught in the middle and agreeing a plan of action in advance is a good way to ensure a stress free Christmas for the whole family.

“For children whose parents have recently separated, the festive period can be an acute reminder that their family dynamic has changed and also that life goes on. It’s important that parents look out for signs of their children being withdrawn and encourage discussion of their child’s feelings in advance of Christmas so that they too feel consulted.

“or all families, it’s important to remember that Christmas can be a time to celebrate family life, share time together and to appreciate the simple things in life.”

Family Lives offers some top tips for families who are stressing out over Christmas

l Get together and write a list of what everyone wants to do. With older children discuss family time and time with friends so you get a happy balance.

l Set a realistic budget for presents, food, and other things and try to keep to this as best you can.

l If a child wants something that is beyond the budget, speak to them and explain as best you can why they cannot have it.

l Make a list of who needs to see who – particularly important blended families.

l If you are separated and unfortunately not able to spend Xmas with your children, then perhaps arrange to have your own special Christmas Day when they return. It may be a difficult day without your children and perhaps you can arrange to meet with friends instead.

l If this is your first Christmas as a stepfamily your child may feel confused and maybe even angry – try to allocate some time that you can spend alone together to reassure them.

l Don’t try and do everything yourself - make a list of jobs which need to be done and allocate them between family or other guests that are invited.

l Don’t try and keep everyone happy all the time, maybe schedule in some time to recharge your own batteries - if you’re well rested you’ll be able to enjoy it more.

l If things get heated between family members and everything gets too much remove yourself from the situation and perhaps call a friend or relative.

l Plan a family treat to avoid that deflated feeling after the holiday season – so you have something to look forward to.

All Parents requiring support over the coming period can call Family Lives’ free and confidential helpline, Parentline, on 0808 800 2222, or email [email protected] for a personalised reply within three days.