Our Work in Action: Helping Families at Christmas

Find out about how our services team help the families that Charlie House supports through the pressures of winter and the festive season.

This month has been an incredibly busy time for Charlie House, with the team working hard to bring the magic of Christmas to every family that we work with across North East Scotland. If you have been following our work this year, you’ll know that every season can bring challenges for the families that we support. But at Christmas time, the pressure to deliver a picture-perfect Christmas for the children to enjoy can add immense pressure to an already strained household.

Like many of us, the weeks leading into the holidays can add all kinds of stress – food shopping, present wrapping and stretched finances can leave everyone feeling frazzled. For a family with a child with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition, they also need to juggle all the practicalities and stresses of everyday life on top of the festive planning. Appointments still need to be attended and medication administered, not to mention the constant worry of exposure to winter colds and flu due to compromised immune systems that can easily end up in a length hospital stay.

It can be a real challenge to plan for the perfect Christmas happen when anything can change in the blink of an eye. A slip on the ice attempting to manoeuvre a wheelchair, or a power cut that leaves a child without a ventilator or other vital equipment – even a rapid change in the weather can leave a family without the critical support services they need from visiting healthcare professionals.  Yet, Christmas is an important time of year for families, so parents and carers battle on hoping things will come together, knowing that it’s worth every effort to see that smile on their children’s faces.

Charlie House Children & Family Support Manager Leigh explains, “While Christmas is a busy time for us all, we can take many things for granted that happen to be particularly difficult for the families that Charlie House supports. A seemingly straightforward trip to Santa’s workshop could be overwhelming due to noise, lights, or disruption to routine. A family would also need to consider whether there was a specialist changing facility may their child need the bathroom, if the venue was accessible for wheelchairs and how close to home it is. They would really have to think about whether the activity was right for the child and the whole family, and whether they would get the most enjoyment from it.”

“Quite often for families, their aim is simply to get through the day,” says Leigh.

While Charlie House can’t promise to take every pressure away from families, we can promise to be here for them as much as possible. We are on hand to provide practical and emotional support during difficult times and our family Facebook group exists so that families can reach out to one another in times of need.

During December, we focus our activities on bringing the spirit of Christmas to families in their homes, offering them a chance to have fun, relax and make precious memories together during what is often a stressful time of year. Like all Charlie House services, these activities are delivered free of charge, and each is carefully planned to be accessible and fun for all the family to enjoy, without adding to their to-do list.

We have delivered a range of postal activities to keep spirits high including Christmas brownie baking kits for the whole family to enjoy. Postal activities are perfect for those who don’t feel like online activities are for them. Our family Christmas party was once again virtual this year. Meaning the whole family could join in at home, with the facilities and equipment on hand to meet the family’s needs – and without having to face the added pressure of planning a day out. The team really did think of everything and pre-recorded some of the sessions so that families could take a break or join in at a time that worked for them.

Some of Santa’s most mischievous and fun-loving elves have also been paying families a visit at home with presents specially chosen for each child and their sibling – thanks to local company Love RaRa. The children have been truly delighted when the elves have arrived at their door, singing, dancing, telling jokes and chatting about all things Christmas. Behind the scenes, Charlie House works with parents and carers to select and pack up personalised gifts for the elves to deliver to the children and their siblings, including lots of sensory toys and fun games.

We make sure that the elves are prepared ahead of time on how best to interact with a child, making it as magical as possible while meeting their unique needs. Again, all of the careful Charlie House planning means that all families need to do is wait in anticipation for a knock on the door to welcome the magic of Christmas - with as little stress as possible.  

For some families, it has been appropriate to travel and join us at in-person activities including a trip to see this year’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Pantomime kindly donated by His Majesty’s Theatre.  Charlie House Activities Coordinator, Claire tells us, “Seeing special moments like this really solidifies why we do what we do. The parents, children and siblings were all getting really involved [in the pantomime] and you could see the joy it was bringing on each of their faces.”

“We are always aware that in the back of parents’ minds they’re thinking about a million things, and how quickly an enjoyable experience might change and they may need to leave. But being able to offer that precious moment of happiness makes it all worthwhile.”

If you, or someone you know, has a child with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition and you wish to seek support from Charlie House, please fill out a referral form on our website today.

Donating £26 can help children create special memories that will never be forgotten at Charlie House activities, sometimes the only opportunity that families can relax and have fun together.

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