Support for families over Christmas

Des Mannion
Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It's important not to forget how many families struggle from the expectations and pressure they are put under during the festive period.
Research conducted by the NSPCC shows that reports of neglect and physical abuse can spike around December, with these two issues being the main concerns raised in terms of the number of contacts to the NSPCC's helpline.
Trained counsellors on the helpline can offer advice and support to anyone concerned about a child, as well as the ability to refer concerns of a child's welfare to relevant authorities.
In the month of December between 2011 and 2015 there have been a total of nearly 5,000 contacts to our helpline from people concerned about children being neglected. In that timeframe there have also been nearly 3,500 contacts about physical abuse.
This, we believe, is an indicator of the stresses that some families face over the festive period.
It's telling that the fourth most common reason for contacts to the helpline in December, with more than 2,400 calls, is emotional abuse. This shows the importance of parents being emotionally available to children when they are under extreme pressure to meet expectations.
Further analysis of the nature of calls to the NSPCC helpline in Wales shows, worryingly, that reports of neglect and abuse remain high or even increased in the month after Christmas too.
Last year, the number of contacts about neglect nearly doubled in January, while those about physical abuse also rose.
From all of these statistics it is clear that while many families come together at Christmas, there are many struggling to meet their children's needs and children can be at further risk of abuse and neglect.
It might seem like there is no way to keep everyone happy, with children demanding the latest toys and the daily pressure to not only put food on the table but ensure that Christmas lives up to expectations, but parents must remember that help is available. There are many sources of support in every local area, such as the Family Information Service on every local council's website which can all provide help.
In addition, the NSPCC's dedicated helpline can offer support and advice, providing guidance about how to tackle what can feel like insurmountable problems and pointing struggling families towards the help they need. It's staffed by professional practitioners with backgrounds in jobs like teaching, healthcare and social work, who know what to do and how to help.
It's important that parents realise there is always someone to talk to and provide help when they need it the most.

Des Mannion is head of service, NSPCC Wales

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