As a volunteer counsellor at Childline Aberdeen, I know only too well how children’s lives have been impacted this year.
We’ve heard from children experiencing pressure on their mental health and feeling trapped and isolated at home, with school closures and clubs and activities being limited due to restrictions put in place to control the pandemic.
We know that Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for children who are already struggling, and Covid-19 is likely to exacerbate this.
But Childline will be here; the counselling service is there for children 365 days a year, including Christmas Day, and I will be here, along with other keyworker staff and volunteers, to listen to any child who feels like they have nowhere else to turn.
This is my second year spending part of my Christmas Day in the base. We work throughout the Christmas period to ensure that if a young person needs help with anything that’s worrying them, they will have someone to talk to, whatever the day.
Last year, there were more than 6,500 Childline counselling sessions from children across the UK over the Christmas period, and the top concern that children contacted us about was their mental and emotional health.
Volunteering has become a big part of my life, and it’s really good being able to do it alongside a great bunch of people. By giving a little bit of my time, I know that I’m supporting children in some way to help them get through whatever they’re struggling with.
I started volunteering with Childline around two years ago, and began on the switchboard, which involves being the first voice that a young person hears when they call the service. It’s great to be able to reassure them and put them in touch with a counsellor so they can get support.
When the first lockdown measures were introduced, I was offered the chance to train as a counsellor and respond to email contacts from children and young people.
Some people might not know, but young people can contact Childline in a number of ways. When the service first started more than 30 years ago, the only way to speak with a counsellor was by phone. But now, only around 25% of contacts are done in this way – the rest are either through an instant chat online or through personal inbox, like emails.
Christmas can be a tough time of year for everyone, and for some children it will be especially hard this year. Our service has adapted and I am privileged to be able to continue to be part of Childline and help support children during these tough times.
Children can contact Childline for free on 0800 1111 or childline.org.uk 365 days a year, and speak to a counsellor about any worry or concern they may have.
If you’re worried about a child for any reason, our NSPCC helpline can be contacted at email@example.com or on 0808 800 5000.