Family at ChristmasGetty

More and more stressed out families are going to have a ding-dong Christmas this year.

National charity Family Lives says it is expecting a surge in calls for help from parents desperate for advice on how to battle through the festive period.

Warring couples and exes, arguments over custody arrangements and rows between relatives are some of the issues the charity's Parentline support service will be dealing with.

And it says cries for help from single parents about loneliness and isolation will soar.

"Christmas can be a stressful occasion for parents and children alike," said Family Lives chief executive, Jeremy Todd.

"Whether the pressure to be the perfect parent is taking its toll, visiting relatives is difficult or the stress children themselves feel as they spend the festive period travelling between resident and non-resident parents."

Since 2007, calls about:

• Adult mental health have increased by 23 per cent

• Disagreements between couples and exes have increased by more than 5 per cent

• Feelings of isolation have increased by more than 5 per cent

• Abuse of an adult carer have increased by 2.25 per cent

• Divorce issues affecting children have increased by more than 3 per cent

• Conflict between siblings or parents have increased by 4 per cent

• Calls about child mental health issues have increased by 10 per cent

"Fifty one per cent of calls to our helpline are from single parents and we know from experience that children may often feel caught in the middle," said Mr Todd.

"For children whose parents have recently separated, the festive period can be an acute reminder that their family dynamic has changed and that life goes on."

Family Lives has put together a list of top for families to help them cope with Christmas stress:

• Get together and write a list of what everyone wants to do. With older children, discuss family time and time with friends to achieve a happy balance

• Set a realistic budget for presents, food, and other things and try to keep to this as best you can

• If a child wants something that is beyond the budget, speak to them and explain as best you can why they cannot have it

• Make a list of who needs to see who. This is especially important for blended families

• If you are separated and can't spend Christmas with your children, arrange to have your own special Christmas Day when they return

• If this is your first Christmas as a stepfamily your child may feel confused and maybe even angry so try to allocate some time that you can spend alone together to reassure them

• Don't try and do everything yourself: make a list of jobs which need to be done and allocate them between family or other guests that are invited

• If things get heated between family members, remove yourself from the situation to calm down

• Plan a family treat to avoid that deflated feeling after the holiday season. It will give you something to look forward to

If you need some help or advice over Christmas, call Family Lives' free and confidential helpline, Parentline, on 0808 800 2222, or email parentsupport@familylives.org.uk for a personalised reply within three days.