Parent Support Charity faces calls from families facing festive fallout over Christmas

Charity needs to raise £14000 to keep its national support services running over Christmas.

National charity Family Lives is bracing itself for an increase in calls to its helpline over the Christmas period from families suffering from Festive fall out.

The charity found that between the Christmas period of 21st December 2011 and 7th January 2012: 

  • Family Lives received 2,009 calls to its helpline of which 1,375 were from unique callers. 
  • Family Lives’ Christmas Volunteers spent approximately 611 hours manning the phones and responding to requests for help and support from distressed families. 
  • The charity responded to 78 emails from families in crisis and 113 Live Online Chats took place between the charity’s Family Support Workers to families in torment.

Jeremy Todd, Family Lives Chief Executive said:

“Christmas can be the toughest time of all for some families.  At a time when emotions run high and stresses and strains increase, many support groups close for the Christmas period, meaning cries for help are left unanswered.  The fall-out from the pressures of the festive period can often culminate in couples deciding to separate.  Every year, Family Lives receives thousands of calls to its free confidential helpline, from separated parents struggling to make contact with their children or make relations with a former partner work during Yule Tide. It is important that parents are supported to find a way of communicating and working together for the sake of their children. Family Lives supports families with relationship difficulties at all times of the year to encourage family stability.”

Recently, Family Lives found that around 45% of survey respondents discussed access issues, suggesting that they might not be able to see their children over the festive period.  From a child-related point of view, 20% of children of divorced parents have unreliable contacts with their parents, whereas 24% suffer from a lack of contact.  The Divorce & Separation report also found that: Callers are more likely to be fathers or non-resident fathers. 

Family Lives found from its respondents that:

  • 52% of separated - or in the process of splitting up - parents are unable to reach general agreement about moving forward
  • Recently divorced adults are more likely to feel lonely
  • 23% of calls to Family Lives’ Helpline revolved around parental responsibilities during or after divorce/separation.

Family Lives offers some top tips for families who are stressing out over Christmas.  

  • Get together and write a list of what everyone wants to do. With older children discuss family time and time with friends so you get a happy balance.
  • Set a realistic budget for presents, food, and other things and try to keep to this as best you can.
  • If a child wants something that is beyond the budget, speak to them and explain as best you can why they cannot have it.
  • Make a list of who needs to see who – particularly important blended families.
  • If you are separated and unfortunately not able to spend Xmas with your children, then perhaps arrange to have your own special Christmas Day when they return.  It may be a difficult day without your children and perhaps you can arrange to meet with friends instead.
  • If this is your first Christmas as a stepfamily your child may feel confused and maybe even angry – try to allocate some time that you can spend alone together to reassure them.
  • Don’t try and do everything yourself - make a list of jobs which need to be done and allocate them between family or other guests that are invited.
  • Don’t try and keep everyone happy all the time, maybe schedule in some time to recharge your own batteries - if you’re well rested you’ll be able to enjoy it more.
  • If things get heated between family members and everything gets too much remove yourself from the situation and perhaps call a friend or relative.
  • Plan a family treat to avoid that deflated feeling after the holiday season – so you have something to look forward to.

Family Lives desperately needs to raise £14000 to keep its Helpline running over Christmas. Text FMLY01 £X to 70070 replacing X with the amount you want to give (e.g. FMLY01 £5 to donate £5) 

 All Parents requiring support over the coming period can call Family Lives’ free and confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222, or email for a personalised reply within 3 days.