A quarter of children of working parents are planning to offer up their gift or pocket money to help their parents cover costs over Christmas, research has suggested.
It comes as one in five working parents surveyed for Action for Children said they are worried they will not be able to afford presents.
Those supported by the charity include a family forced to pawn their electricals to buy food for the children and a child without a bed sleeping on blankets, it said.
One little girl told a worker she is not asking for anything from Santa this year because it would make her mother “too sad”.
Action for Children said that as a charity that delivers children’s services, it is instead increasingly having to provide emergency relief to families as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.
It is launching its annual Secret Santa campaign where the public can donate funds to give vulnerable children gifts such as Christmas presents, trips to the pantomime, warm winter clothes and food.
To mark the launch, it commissioned Savanta ComRes to survey 2,732 working parents and their children (2,732 children aged eight to 17) in November across the UK.
It found 26% of child respondents who receive pocket money or money for their birthday or Christmas from other family members said they will offer this to their parents to help them pay for things this Christmas.
A further 34% responded “maybe” when asked.
The poll also found 20% of parents were worried they will not be able to afford presents while 26% were worried about affording Christmas essentials such as food and a tree.
More than half of the parents surveyed (53%) said they have worried often about money over the past six months, experiencing trouble sleeping, worsening mental health and becoming upset or stressed in front of their children.
One mother said: “We only put the heating on for the little one so she can have her bath … we use candles in the evening to light the room just to save on electricity, and luckily that also generates some heat.”
Asked by a frontline worker if there was anything she would like from Santa this year, a young girl replied: “I’m not asking for anything and I’m not writing it down on paper (then nodded towards her mum) because she would get too sad.”
Victoria, a mother of four from Bath who is being supported by Action for Children, told of how she regularly skips meals so her children have enough to eat.
Her eldest daughter Keira, 11, gives up her pocket money to help her mother buy basics and also donated her recent birthday money.
She said: “What’s in my cupboard at the moment is just pasta, cereal, baked beans and bread – most of it’s from food banks.
“I get a food bank parcel from the nursery every week and the girls collect a bag or two of food bank food from the school too.
“I had to find money for one of my daughter’s school trips yesterday and I had to ask my mum for the money as I just couldn’t afford it.
“It makes you feel you’re not good enough to be a parent when you have to ask for help.”
Melanie Armstrong, chief executive of Action for Children, said: “Instead of enjoying a safe and happy time, many children will wake up on Christmas morning to no presents, food or warmth.
“Every day our frontline workers are helping families keep their heads above water, making sure they have the basics like hot meals and proper winter clothes, as well as offering emergency support to keep homes warm and help families pay the bills.
“In yet another year when children and families have been pushed deeper into crisis, supporting them is more important than ever.
“Until every family can keep their child warm and well fed, we’ll be there to help them – that’s why we’re asking people to donate to help us make a life-changing difference to vulnerable children this Christmas and beyond. With your help we can be a vital lifeline for even more children across the UK.”
Anyone wishing to contribute to the campaign should visit iamsanta.org.uk for further details.