The most joyful time of the year is full of gift giving and seasonal meals for many households across the UK, but an increasing number of poor families are worrying how they can meet the cost of Christmas this year.
As the cost of living problem continues to bite, one father of three has told The Mirror that he is frightened that he may be unable to buy presents for his teenage children this year.
Due to ongoing health concerns, particularly lengthy Covid, David* works part-time and relies largely on social supermarkets and other support systems to afford escalating expenditures. No
“I feel sorry, ashamed, humiliated, and mentally strained,” David told the Mirror. “It gives me a lot of anxiety because I feel like a failure as a father and a provider.”
The father from Salford, Greater Manchester, is the sole provider for his three sons, ages nine, fourteen, and fifteen, and he is determined not to let financial difficulties ruin the holiday season.
He used to rely on religious organizations and given toys, but now that his three boys are older, this is no longer an option because many donations are reserved for small children.
“Groups provide Christmas presents for youngsters, but they either have cut-off ages or the toys that they do have cater mostly to younger age groups,” he explained.
This suggests he is considering secondhand goods or spending money on gifts he cannot afford.
David’s eldest kid will turn 16 in the run-up to Christmas, adding to the pressure on the father – even though the youngster has only requested for mobile phone data, as he will not want anything else.
On a trip to Manchester’s Trafford Centre, David discovered a store stocked with gadgets and toys that his boys would adore, but the products were completely out of reach.
A single wonderful gift for one of his boys could cost him a large portion of his Christmas money, making the other two feel left out or less special.
This year, David hopes to use the Lidl Bear’s Toy Bank to relieve some of the stress of gift-giving, but a scarcity of toys for teenagers is becoming an issue.
Lidl already donates food to local charitable groups, but they have launched a nationwide effort to collect presents for Christmas.
The Lidl Bear’s Toy Bank is coordinated by Steve Butterworth, CEO of charitable giving site Neighbourly “[There is] a significant scarcity of gifts for teenage children, who are perhaps more aware of their position than a young child.
“They’re just not typically thought of as children. I believe that sometimes it is simply a matter of nuancing and the term that is used, rather than a willful oversight.”
Steve proposed that people contribute books, cosmetics, sportswear, and minor tech items such as headphones to youngsters.
Money isn’t the only issue on David’s mind while he’s trying to buy gifts.
“They’re at a stage in their lives where peer pressure is vital,” he added “It is not enough to obtain some decent quality trainers or athletic apparel because they may be mocked if they are not branded or are supermarket brands.
“That pressure has always existed, but social media has intensified it. That has increased the pressure to conform to the latest fashion trend or whatever it may be, regardless of the cost.
“There’s no point in having nice quality clothing that they’re embarrassed to wear since it won’t be used and could expose them to harm.”
His three sons understand that money is tight and haven’t even asked their father for gifts, but David believes they’re only doing this to avoid putting pressure on him.
Steve expressed David’s concerns, saying: “David’s eldest child understands the situation, but does that make it any better for him at school?
“When there is peer pressure and expectation, and there will be those kids who have more than others, it’s simple to say ‘oh you can stand up to that and be strong,’ but I think it’s extremely difficult to just say ‘you will be okay, we’ll get through it.'”
“I should be able to ask them – they might be teens, but they’re still children, and they should have a decent Christmas Day with good presents,” David remarked, adding, “They might be teens, but they’re still children, and they should have a decent Christmas Day with good presents.”
“My oldest child is going easy on me, he’s being very polite about it,” the 53-year-old continued, “but I think it’s a cause of irritation for his younger brother, who is 14.”
The father-of-three is concerned that his middle child would go to extreme means to fit in and acquire money. He is concerned about his “socially engaged” 14-year-old “falling in with the wrong set and going astray” – gangs are a particular concern because of “the attraction of quick money when you’re from a poor background.”
It may appear excessive that a shortage of Christmas presents could lead a child into crime, but the expectations imposed on teenagers to fit in, just like adults, can push them to extreme actions.
David stated: “On top of [everything], I’m concerned about how this will affect my children’s life choices. It’s basically a terrible concoction.”
According to new study released last month, youngsters are being targeted by gangs as the cost of living crisis continues to bite, experts warn.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council cautioned in a strategy paper that the economic downturn is causing more youth to be pulled into crime.
Children are being abused, according to Sarah Parker, Research and Development Officer at the charity Catch 22 “”Personal risk.”
She continued, saying: “Child exploitation is an opportunistic economic model that evolves as things change in communities.
“You will be acutely aware of your parents’ tension and concern if you see them thinking if they can put another five pounds on the meter. It’s only natural, and we know it’s a motivator for gangs to target children.
“Once you get to 13, 14, kids go off the radar,” said Barry Matley of the charity organisation Manchester City Mission, “and we think then it’s also tougher for parents to acknowledge that they can’t [afford things].” Parents, like David, do not speak out because “it is a dignity to be able to support your family.”
While parents are embarrassed to discuss the full depth of their finances, Barry says kids might feel quite insecure as they grapple with financial discrepancies between themselves and their peers.
“They’re just finding their own feet and making their own path in life, and they need something secure,” observed Project Nourish’s leader.
“And if no funds are available for things, it pulls the rug out from under that stability.”
David believes he can cover the food part of the holiday season by utilizing social supermarkets and other support banks, albeit he notes that these shelves are either empty or have increased in price.
This year, the father of three is most concerned about gifts and the inability to find appropriate gifts for his teenagers.
When asked how the Lidl Bear’s Toy Bank could help him if they had more teen donations, David said: “There is financial pressure on me to refrain from spending money that I do not have, but it would ease some of the social problems [for the boys].
“If they got excellent Christmas presents, they can go back to school in the new year with their heads held high,” he stated.
“[Getting presents] will be excellent in terms of relieving them of peer pressure. The real gift may provide them some delight and excitement on the day, and they will be able to hold their heads high when discussing Christmas with school buddies.”
When asked what he wanted for Christmas this year, David laughed and said: “I normally answer that I don’t want anything or that I only want a token.
I won’t ask for much, just a small gesture on the day so that when we’re unwrapping presents together, I may join in with a few bits and pieces from my pile.”
“I believe we’ll be fine in terms of a respectable Christmas meal, but the current situation is really concerning,” David moaned.
Presents must be new in original packaging or unopened and can be donated to Lidl Bear’s Toy Banks at any Lidl shop until December 16, 2022.