Childline counsellors were the first contact for more than 34,000 young people in 2019

The start of a new year is exciting. Booking holidays, joining a gym, or even looking for a new job; it’s a fresh start for your 2020 vision.

By Darren Worth
Monday, 13th January 2020, 6:00 pm
Childline counsellors were the first contact to talk through a problem by more than 34,000 young people last year.
Childline counsellors were the first contact to talk through a problem by more than 34,000 young people last year.

Dashing between stores, schools, and workplaces to get the year off to a productive start can make us incredibly busy. But in amongst the noise of errands and demands, it’s crucial that we take the time to listen to the children in our lives.

It’s easy to get caught up in everyday life, but that can mean missing the signs that a child is facing a difficult time. Whether that’s bullying, exam stress, loneliness or anxiety, it can be difficult for children to talk about these kinds of situations and feelings. This makes it even more important for trusted adults like parents, carers, and teachers to be there to support them.

Last year, 34,513 children told us that a Childline counsellor was the first person they had told about a problem. This is because many young people don’t know who they can approach to talk about their feelings.

For a child, deciding to talk to a parent, carer, or teacher can be challenging. Our counsellors regularly hear from children who worry that an adult won’t believe them or doesn’t have the time to listen. One young person told Childline:

“I’m not sure how to speak out about [my feelings] without coming across as just attention seeking or overreacting.”

If you notice a change in a child’s behaviour; including withdrawal, quietness, and sleeping or eating differences, you could be the first person to help them talk about how they’re feeling. It can take a lot of courage for a child to confide in an adult, so it’s important to mute all possible distractions like phones and televisions and give them your complete attention.

We understand that this can be difficult, that’s why we have the NSPCC helpline. The helpline is a place that adults can contact by phone or online to get advice or share their concerns about a child, anonymously if they wish. It's staffed by professional practitioners with backgrounds in jobs like teaching, healthcare and social work, who know how to help.

Additionally, you can help a child find their voice by signposting them to Childline. Our specially-trained counsellors provide a free, confidential, non-judgemental service 24/7 for any child or young person that needs us. Childline isn’t just for those suffering from abuse or neglect, but for any worry or concern a child may have.

One boy told us:

“Childline has helped me in ways I can’t describe. They’ve been there when no one else has, wrote the words I could not say, and been that little bit of hope when every other person has left me.

“I come off the phone feeling happy and like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

No child should feel like they can’t talk about how they’re feeling. Here at the NSPCC, we want to empower all children to have a voice. Since Childline began, 33 years ago, we’ve been doing exactly that. Every 25 seconds, a child calls or messages us to talk about something that is worrying them. That’s more than 250,000 counselling sessions delivered every single year.

It costs £4 for one of our specially-trained counsellors to answer a child, and give them a voice, maybe for the first time. If you’re an avid listener, you could even volunteer with Childline.

Whether it’s a call, a message, or a chat, we all have a role to play in helping give children a voice. Start listening today.