You’re not alone

If you’re a parent, you know what it feels like to go through difficulties. Whether your experiences have been struggling to pay bills and feed your family, dealing with the stress of chronic illness, parenting while grieving or even the crippling task of surviving through depression or sleeplessness; at some point you probably felt utterly alone. If you’re in the eye of the storm or in a better place right now, it can be hard to watch other parents wrestling with life. How can you help them?

‘I know what you mean’

Telling other parents that you can sympathise because you’ve been through something similar isn’t necessarily helpful. It may come out sounding like ‘been there, done that’, even with the best intentions. It can be even more annoying when you dole out unsolicited advice based on your own experiences. Asking the person who is currently enduring difficulties to chat, allowing them to open up, is more important than a trip down memory lane. Talking through difficulties can help parent process what they’re feeling.

‘I’m no doctor, but...’

Unless you’re a qualified medical professional who has conducted a proper examination, your opinion may not only be unwanted, but it could even be harmful. Rashes may present similarly for different afflictions. Postpartum depression is different to bipolar disorder. More practical ways of helping could be to offer lifts to a doctor, assistance with medical costs or babysitting while other family members go to the hospital or pharmacy (or even so that they can get some sleep).

The casserole solution

I’ve had friends who have organised meal rosters when my family went through tricky times, such as the births of my children or a death in the family. We would reciprocate, too, when those friends had similar challenges. If you’re grieving, for example, it’s very hard to understand that your body still needs food, but eating helps to keep you relatively ‘normal’. If you’re considering this kind of help, check with the friends you want to help out: What kinds of foods do they enjoy/not eat, what time will be convenient to drop it off, are they able to reheat food or should it be delivered hot? Don’t spoil it by hanging around for coffee. If a group of friends is agreeing to do this, make sure you don’t each bring chicken pie every day for a week!

Mom’s day off

Remember Mother’s Day? Well, many moms commented that they didn’t want to DO anything- they wanted to lie around reading, sleeping, or just sitting in the garden. There’s value in that. Why not offer to take care of all of your friend’s chores, look after the kids and take on the role of mom in that house for the day? Like Mother’s Day, only more often. Movie tickets and spa vouchers could be useful additional gifts for this day- but only if she wants them.

It’s the little things

It’s not always about grand gestures. A simple text message, a brief telephone call or chat can keep your friends going. No advice, no judging- just being there is helpful.

We can’t fight everyone’s battles for them, or solve all of their problems, but, as parents, we can be a formidable force of loving, supportive friends, helping each other cope with what we know can be incredibly hard.

Have you ever had friends who have helped you carry your load as a parent?

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