Christmas is my favourite time of year. I was brought up in a loving household with an amazing family. Christmas meant fun, laughter, presents and lots of food. Now I am a social worker, I can appreciate how lucky I was.
Each year I see that, for many families, Christmas is a very difficult time. Some children don’t get presents at Christmas – they aren’t excited, waiting for their stocking to be hung on the end of the bed or tucking into roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. For many children, Christmas is a depressing time, a lonely time, and as it is a time when they are away from the security of school, it can be a vulnerable time. It is at Christmas when I worry most about the young people I work with.
I have made it my mission to make sure that each and every one of the children and young people I work with has a Christmas with a little bit of happiness and joy. For the past couple of years, I have been supported by a local charity which has given me presents for younger children. The teenagers I work with are more of a challenge and I have resorted to Facebook appeals to my amazing friends and family for hand-outs for gifts. They never let me down.
It is around this time that my house begins to fill up with all these presents. With the help of friends, I sort them into piles for all the children in my care. And then, on Christmas Eve, it is time to play Santa.
I go around the homes of all the children I work with and, with the help of parents or carers, sneak presents under the tree. Last Christmas, my last drop was at 7pm on Christmas Eve. I was ready to be at home with my family, so I knocked on the door a little grumpily looking like a crazy bag lady.
I was greeted by a grandma caring for five children on her own. She greeted me with such gratitude, appreciation and warmth that I was ashamed of my hurry to get home. The way she reacted made every moment that day worthwhile.
We’re now in that period when schools become bustling balls of energy fuelled by Christmas excitement. Amid the letters to Santa, tinsel, decorations and visits to Father Christmas, spare a thought for those children who won’t have a Christmas. Try and do something, however small, to ensure they know you care. The horrible truth is that, at this time of year when families come together, you may be the only one who does.
Some details of the story may have been changed to protect the identities of those involved. Previous blogs by the school social worker can be found in the related links below.