by Edmond Chan, Childline Supervisor
Photography by Tom Hull – the adults and children photographed are models
Christmas can be an exciting time when families get together to celebrate. Lots of us look forward to it all year. But Christmas isn’t a magical time for everyone.
Christmas can be a difficult time for many different reasons – from family arguments to feeling lonely. Looking at social media it’s easy to believe that everyone around you is having the perfect Christmas.
And it can be hard to escape the holiday season sometimes, particularly when you don’t enjoy Christmas and everyone’s talking about it.
One 16 year old girl who contacted Childline told our volunteer counsellors: “I lost my grandad earlier this year. This is going to be my first ever Christmas without him and I Feel really alone. I don’t know how to tell my family or what to do. I’m looking for some advice – please help.”
If your child seems to be struggling with the festive period, try not to worry. We have some tips to help you support them through what can be a very challenging time.
Christmas can be a stressful time for even the closest of families. There might be arguments, or you might have to spend time with people you don’t like. Arguments can sometimes happen because people drink too much alcohol.
Not every family spends Christmas together. If parents are divorced or separated it’s likely children will spend time with one parent but not the other. It’s important that children feel able to say who they want to spend Christmas with, and they’re not just trying to keep everyone else happy.
No matter what difficulties are happening at home, it’s important children do things that will help them to cope. Sometimes simply making some time to listen to music they enjoy or messaging their friends can help. If things ever get too much and they don’t feel they can come to you, they can always speak to Childline.
Missing someone who’s passed away or can’t be there
When someone dies, Christmas can bring up lots of memories of them, even if it’s been a while since they died. Children might feel loss more keenly at this time because they wish they could share the festivities with them.
You could also miss someone because they can’t be there. They might be in hospital, be working or not be able to be there for some other reason. If your child is struggling because they’re missing someone:
• Encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling. That could be with you or another trusted adult like an aunt or uncle. Or they could speak to a friend.
• Make sure they have time to remember the person. Talk about what they remember, perhaps write them a letter, or look at photos of them.
• Urge them not to put pressure on themselves to behave a certain way, it’s okay to show they’re upset.
• Try making new memories at Christmas, doing something you all enjoy doesn’t mean they’ll forget the person they lost, but it can help make Things easier.
Feeling lonely or isolated
There might be lots of reasons for children to feel lonely at Christmas. They might be away from family or feel like there’s nobody they can talk to. They might have had bad experiences at Christmas before.
When they’re feeling alone or down, it’s important they don’t keep it to themselves. Talking about how they feel with someone they trust will help and it means that they can get support.
Celebrating Christmas often involves a lot of food and drink. If your child has a problem with food or eating, this time of year might make them worried about:
• Eating too much (binge eating)
• Not wanting to eat (anorexia)
• Eating and then making themselves sick (bulimia)
If your child is worrying about the amount they eat – or you think they might have a problem with food – remind them they can talk to a Childline counsellor about it – call us free on 0800 1111.
It’s OK not to celebrate
Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Some people might not like the time of year and others might not because of their religion of beliefs.
It might seem like everyone celebrates Christmas when every advert on TV is about Christmas, and the shops are full of decorations and gifts. But even if your family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, you can still enjoy this time of year. It’s a holiday and that means you have some time to relax, enjoy yourself and see friends and family.
Whatever worries your child might have this Christmas, let them know they can speak to you or to our trained volunteer counsellors at Childline, free and in confidence, 24 hours a day – including Christmas day.
Children can phone us on 0800 1111, log in to the Childline website www.childline.org.uk for a 1-2-1 counsellor chat or send us an email via the website and we can help.