Families should be given breathing space to repay debts otherwise the stress can affect children’s mental health, a charity has said.
The Children’s Society suggests that an estimated 2.4 million children in England and Wales live in households with problem debt.
They were at greater risk of having poor mental health than those in debt-free homes, the charity said.
The government said free debt advice was aimed at helping those in need.
The Children’s Society said that the problem was particularly acute for families trying to juggle a number of debts, leading to calls from bailiffs, utility firms and councils.
Debt meant that some children were unable to socialise or take part in events like sports or school trips and could miss out on birthdays, family gatherings and holidays, according to the society’s Damage of Debt report.
Youngsters also felt embarrassed for not owning things that were considered normal by their classmates. There could also be guilt, anxiety and a sense of failure for being unable to help parents deal with their debts.
They might also have to live with family arguments.
The society wants families to be given time to deal with debts, a point also raised by other debt charities.
A government spokesman said: “The number of children living in workless households is at a record low, but we know financial difficulties can put pressure on the entire family, including children, so we want to do more.
“That is why the government-sponsored Money Advice Service spends £45m a year to help people with free debt advice which helped to deliver 380,000 free face-to-face sessions.
“This is backed up by our historic £1.4bn investment into improving children’s mental health services and we are supporting schools to teach children about mental health and wellbeing.”