Christmas can be a very challenging time for children who suffer from abuse and neglect and for those struggling with their mental health.
Last Christmas was one of the toughest in living memory, bringing with it great sadness and challenges for many children. In December alone, Childline delivered a record number of almost 600 sessions to children across the UK who were feeling lonely.
Given the impact of the pandemic, it is no surprise that throughout 2020/21 Childline saw record numbers of children from across the UK get in touch about loneliness. The lockdowns exacerbated these feelings for some young people, especially when schools had to close, and they couldn’t see the friends and family they love and needed.
Children shared with Childline counsellors that these experiences were particularly acute over the festive period, as households were unable to mix.
Children experiencing loneliness
Young people who contacted Childline about loneliness also talked about being unhappy, feeling unloved and generally low. Some described it as a dark experience that was overwhelming. As well as loneliness, the top reasons children turn to the service for support with their mental health include anxiety and stress, low mood, and depression.
One 14-year-old boy from Scotland who contacted Childline told a counsellor that he had self-harmed because he felt lonely.
Some young people, who did have family and friends around them, talked about feeling desperately lonely because a lack of self-esteem and self-worth creates a sense of separation from others.
Mental health has remained the top reason that children have got in touch with Childline throughout the past 18 months. Although restrictions have eased and life is gradually returning to a new kind of normal, things are still very tough for many children. They have talked to Childline about the loss of loved ones, testing positive for Covid, concerns about the virus and general worries about the impact of the pandemic on their academic performance.
Last December saw Childline deliver its highest number of counselling sessions about loneliness to children & young people. Cut off from school and other support, it is vital they have somewhere to turn. Please help us be here for children: https://t.co/7sSc6B68cv pic.twitter.com/yJWXmUd5x9
— NSPCC (@NSPCC) December 1, 2021
We want to remind children who are struggling or feeling alone that our Childline counsellors, working from bases across the UK including Aberdeen, are there for them whenever they need to talk to someone, and that they can contact them by phone or on-line, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or visit childline.org.uk for free 24/7, 365 days a year.
Adeniyi Alade is head of Childline in Scotland