By Louise King
Christmas is the happiest time of the year… or is it? Don’t get me wrong, I love a mince pie in front of a twinkling Christmas tree and watching my daughters’ joy as they discover their stockings. But at Baby Bank Network we are also very aware that there is another, less happy, side to the festive period.
There is no doubt that Christmas can be very stressful for many every year. This year families in Bristol and around the UK are facing uncertain futures with their household finances, may have been bereaved, made redundant, or affected by mental health conditions exacerbated by lockdown and other stresses. Anyone with children knows that it is also a very expensive and tiring time of year. Of course, this year we are also more restricted in our social gatherings so our usual Christmas traditions may be a lot quieter and some Bristolians may be struggling with loneliness.
So, what can we do this Christmas to help others who may be struggling?
1. Support the Baby Bank Network (it had to be number one, didn’t it?!) This could be through second hand baby and toddler items that you no longer need (please see our weekly wish list) or through financial donations which are used to purchase items such as mattresses that have to be provided new. Also check out our Christmas craft pack, which has lots of fun activities for the little ones, and all we ask in return is that you make a donation.
2. Support your local food bank. This year food banks such as the Trussell Trust have seen demand for food parcels rocket due to the impact of the pandemic: they announced a 47% increase in support needed. An extra tin or carton in the trolley each week can be donated after the till in many supermarkets – and would you notice the difference? Top tip: many food banks provide a wish list for what they need that week so it is worth checking before you start your shop. Food banks also accept essential toiletries.
3. Replace a present or cards. Could you agree to not buy a gift for a friend or family member and make a donation to a local charity instead? A close friend asked me this year if we would prefer this and, of course, we said yes! Similarly, my cousin has donated to charity in lieu of sending Christmas cards. This one is about balance – I think sending a thoughtful note in a card to someone you rarely see is a lovely thing to do; but do we really need to give cards to those we see at Christmas anyway?
4. Encourage your children to think of others at this time. Books such as It’s a No-Money Day by Kate Milner will increase their awareness that others may live in very different ways to them, including poverty. Perhaps they could bake some mince pies for a neighbour, participate in a charity fundraiser, or even organise their own event!
5. Support your local charity shop. Charities have had their fundraising opportunities greatly limited this year and the second lockdown has hit them hard. Their shops are a fantastic source of Christmas jumpers, kids’ clothes, little extra bits for stockings… I could go on! This year I have been on a mission to have more environmentally-friendly gift wrapping and have found silk scarves, 70s Christmas napkins and table runners, which I will decoratively wrap our presents in. That’s my vision anyway, we shall see how it looks! The best bit is that they can be reused for wrapping year after year.
A very merry Christmas to all our supporters, however you may be celebrating.
Love, Baby Bank Network.