Our December blog looks at the pressures of the festive season and ways in which children and young people can be supported.

Expectations run high at Christmas, with wall-to-wall media images of happy families laughing together around the treat-laden table.

But many families do not have the sort of time that would look good in a TV commercial and when there are issues at home the festive season can have a significant impact on children and young people.

Living in a family with a parent who drinks or uses drugs means living with a selection box of problems which can’t just be put aside for Christmas.

The school holidays mean that children usually spend much more time at home or with other family members.

And with a potential increase in alcohol and drug use by family members, children may be faced with parental conflict and family violence.

They may be spending large amounts of time by themselves or looking after siblings, wishing that things could be different or wishing they could be back at school.

So what can practitioners do to help offer support during the difficulties raised by this time of year?

A plan developed with the child or young person may help.

This could include details of support systems they may find useful – for example names and numbers of people they can go to for help if they need it. This could be a friend, family member or professional that they trust and who will be available over the Christmas break.

You could use the templates in our Help me understand booklet or develop your own – having a list of contacts can be reassuring and a reminder that they are not on their own.

The plan may also include details of helplines. Childline runs throughout the festive period and can be contacted on 0800 1111, it also runs online message boards for children and young people to talk to others in similar situations. The website also has information about how to chat online to a counsellor or email.

Nacoa runs a telephone helpline on 0800 358 3456, an email helpline@Nacoa.org.uk and hosts online message boards, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org

Children and young people may also like to include a list of things they could do just for themselves – whether this is watching TV, reading a book, drawing, getting outside or other favourite activities.

We have a variety of free downloadable worksheets, stories and films made by other children and young people and a range of practice resources on our website.  

Rethink has further information and resources and children and young people may benefit from connecting with others in the same situation via young carers online community Babble where there are different topics, tips and activities.  

Wishing you a safe and peaceful Christmas.

Caroline Horst, Development worker, Stars National Initiative.


Read our previous blogs:

November 2016: For our November blog Jo Manning, national lead for substance misuse at The Children's Society, reflects on some exciting recent projects.

October 2016: Our guest post this month is an abridged version of IAS Director Katherine Brown's address to the inaugural APPG for Children of Alcoholics, hosted by The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) on 15 September 2016.

September 2016: Our September 2016 blog reflects on our existing resources and invites comments, feedback and suggestions from you.  

Summer 2016: Alcohol Focus Scotland write a guest post describing their new toolkit C.H.A.T. for children and families affected by alcohol.

June 2016: A guest post from Chantelle Green, a Hidden Harm Worker at Insight Platform, Haringey, who writes about her work with families and children affected by substance misuse.

May 2016: Our May blog looks at the positive impacts of a national programme created to support young carers in schools.

April 2016: Catalyst write a guest post looking at a Family and Friends meeting and the support the organisation offers to those affected by another's substance use.

March 2016:  A guest post from Gloucestershire Young Carers focusing on Strength in Families - a project supporting young carers impacted by their parent's substance misuse and mental health issues.

February 2016: A focus on COA Week which aims to give a voice to the 1 in 5 children affected by their parents' drinking.

January 2016: We look at Str8 Up - a service catering for young people affected by their own substance use and that of others.

All 2015 blogs

December 2014 blog