Childline volunteer John Regan talks about his experience supporting and listening to children - especially over the festive season
I started volunteering with Childline in Autumn 2019, just a few months before the pandemic arrived in Ireland. I’ve really enjoyed the experience so far.
I work a lot with children and I wanted to help and listen to children any way I could, so to me becoming a volunteer with Childline was a perfect fit.
It’s very hard to describe the experience of volunteering with Childline in a nutshell. There really is something new on every shift.
Children and young people who contacts us online, by phone or by text, can be experiencing so many different emotions. They might be going through grief, loss, anger, depression or anxiety – and some can call us about everyday things too and they might be happy and joyous. There is so much behind every engagement.
I volunteered with Childline on Christmas Eve in 2019 and I’ll be there again on Christmas Eve this year . I was keen to do the shift again as there’s a definite sense in the air of Christmas coming the next day and the kind of contacts we get in can really differ.
On that Christmas Eve 2019 shift, I had contacts from children who spoke about what they hoped Santa would bring them and they were excited and happy to talk to us.
At the other end of the spectrum then, you have kids calling up who are perhaps wondering why one of their parents isn’t there – they may be experiencing loss or wondering what Christmas Day will have in store for them. There can be a lot of confusion, a lot of frustration, a lot of sadness, so it can be quite emotional and impactful that way.
Whatever’s on their mind, it’s really important that Childline is there for them.
Since the pandemic began, I’ve noticed a lot of the contacts we receive can feel more intimate and more emotional.
I think feelings and challenges can be experienced acutely in both positive and negative ways at Christmas so it’s really important that Childline is there for every child, no matter what they’re going through.
Some children don’t have someone they can talk to at Christmas time and we’re all human – it’s good to have someone to reach out to.
In a sense it feels fulfilling for me as a volunteer to be in Childline answering those contacts because we know we can be there to listen and we’re there for children and young people too who might desperately need support.
Children and young people can also be very thankful and they can tell us that they like the fact they can chat with us and we’re not here to judge them or tell them what to do.
I think those aspects of the service can be particularly important when it comes to a child experiencing distress or anxiety or feeling low over Christmas.
With thanks to the exceptional dedication of our volunteers like John, Childline will be there for every child and young person in Ireland every day and night this Christmas season.
All service details can be found at Childline.ie.
Childline relies on donations for 75 per cent of the funding which keeps our service listening to children 24 hours a day, every day.
To support Childline this Christmas, click here.