The NSPCC is preparing for a surge in the amount of children and young people contacting Childline this Christmas as relationship tensions among families come to a head over the festive period.
Childline figures show that in the two years between 2013 and 2015 there has been a significant jump in children and young people from across the UK reaching out for help, advice and support on Christmas Day (+24 per cent) and Boxing Day (+32 per cent) and the charity is ready if the same thing occurs this year.
Counsellors will be working around the clock, throughout the festive period making sure someone is there to listen, if children and young people need somewhere to turn.
Worries about family relationships topped the list of concerns that children and young people spoke to Childline counsellors about on Christmas Day and Boxing Day last year.
Figures for Scotland are not available for previous years, but throughout 2015-16 more than 1,500 contacts to Childline were made by young people from Scotland to discuss family relationships.
Christmas can exacerbate the struggles and pressures felt by families over the course of the year, often pushing them to their limits as they spend more time together during the festive period.
Many children and young people reported feeling fed-up and worried about their parents arguing, which they told counsellors often stemmed from financial problems or drinking too much alcohol.
Low moods and unhappiness were other major reasons cited for those contacting Childline on December 25 and 26, with bereavement and anxiety about going back to school also spoken about as reasons for feeling miserable.
Worryingly, some young people admitted to feeling so unhappy they were having panic attacks and even harming themselves.
The most common age group to contact Childline on Christmas Day and Boxing Day are 12-15 year olds.
A 14-year-old girl told Childline counsellors: “I am fed up with my parents arguing. They shout and scream at each other all the time. It all seems to stem from their financial problems and my dad’s drinking. He drinks too much and I am so worried that he will come home really drunk from his work Christmas party tonight and make things worse at home. I am also worried about Christmas Day as my parents had a massive argument last night and they are not speaking today.”
And young person who contacted Childline said: “I have not self-harmed for over a month but I find Christmas really hard and am finding it tough to keep myself safe.
“I have lost both my brother and grandmother and I really miss them at Christmas. Dad isn’t around as he left us a few years ago and Christmas just reminds me that they are all no longer in my life.”
Across the 12 Days of Christmas (Dec 24-Jan 4) there was an overall increase of five per cent in the number of counselling sessions handled by Childline in the two years between 2013 and 2015, with 8,660 children and young people reaching out for help, support and advice.
Nearly two thirds of the counselling sessions delivered were of a serious nature, meaning that counsellors classified the child or young person as being at serious risk, either from themselves or someone else.
Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland, said: “Christmas Day and Boxing Day should be some of the happiest days of the year with families getting the chance to spend quality time together. Sadly a growing number of children and young people face a different reality, with December 25 and 26 bringing them only stress, tension and misery.
“It is important for them to know that Childline does not close for Christmas, with our dedicated volunteers working day and night over the festive period to help any child or young person in need of advice or support, be it online or over the phone.”
Children and young people can contact Childline anytime on 0800 1111.