Help me, I'm a Friend or Family Member

Friends sml

You play an important role in the life of your friend or family member who is going through a relationship breakdown. A friend or family member may be looking for your advice or opinion at certain times; at others, he or she may just want to discuss his or her experiences and emotions. Support and encourage them to call, e-mail, or stop by.

If your friend or family members asks for your advice, assure them that they can and will make the decision that is right for their situation. You might also want to help find support services that they will be able to access or ask others who have been in a similar situation to recommend professionals whom they have found helpful, respectful and impartial.

Most importantly, remind them that they are loved and are not alone in this process.

Offer a helping hand

Separation can leave your friend or family member with less free time and energy. Through simple actions you can help to ease your loved one’s struggles by acting:

  • Call, write, or send an e-mail just to let that person know that he or she on your mind. You might include a fun memory to remind him of good times that you’ve shared.
  • If you live nearby, drop off a meal, offer to help out with daily chores and responsibilities, pick a child up from school, shop for groceries, or help cook dinner.
  • Encourage your loved one to take some time for him/herself by offeringto babysit. Help them think of things to do during his time off that would be relaxing. Even a walk through the park or a quiet hour to read a book or magazine can help relieve stress.
  • If you live far away, share your favorite Web site or a good article on a topic that interests your friend or family member. This will let him or her know that you’re thinking of them, and can help direct their mind toward something other than the separation

Your friend or family member may find it particularly challenging to address the divorce or separation issue with his or her child. There are ways to help them:

  • Begin conversations that focus on the positives in their life, and encourage them to share with their child positive thoughts and details about fun, upcoming events.
  • Suggest possible routines that he or she may begin or continue with the child or children in order to provide consistency, such as giving her child two kisses and a hug before they go to school or reading a bedtime story each night.
  • When offering your loved one and their child or children support, avoid speaking negatively about the other parent. Because the other parent may always be a part of the child’s life, it’s important not to confuse or damage that relationship with disapproving words.

Further Information for Friends and Family Members

It is important to keep children informed at every stage of the separation process.

Encourage your friend or family member to inform their child or children about what is happening. Children don't need every detail, but they do need to know what is going on. They may not wish to be involved in making decisions, but most children will still want to feel they are being listened to. If something is not yet decided, reassure the children that their parents will have the answers as soon as they can.

Co-parenting following separation, divorce or a dissolution of a civil partnership can be tricky and challenging. Your ability as a a friend or a relative to communicate successfully with the child , meet their needs, for safety, support and love will have a positive effect on the child and reassure them of a loving support network around them.

Articles in this section include:

When parents separate they both remain responsible for the care and financial support of their children. Friends and family members can provide a supporting role in this. Most think it is important for the children’s lives to be affected as little as possible by the separation and for them to have a similar standard of living when they are spending time with each parent. The law takes this view too.

Articles in this section include:

Relationship breakdown can be a very emotional time for children. Whilst children will react differently, depending on their age, personality and the individual situation, it is common for children to go through a whole range of emotions, which can include denial, anger, self-blame, sadness and withdrawal. However, with space, time and support they will work through their feelings and adjust.

Articles in this section include:

Your friend or family member affected by separation is likely to go through the grief (loss) cycle. Because we are unique human beings, it is difficult to tell exactly what we will feel and when but it is reassuring to know it’s all normal and won’t last forever. It is important that your friend or relative takes care of themself and their wellbeing during this time, and you can help them to do so in a calm, gentle and supportive manner. 

Articles in this section include:

NFM is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family

If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can also contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.

All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.

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9am - 5pm, Mon - Fri

Charity No: 1074796

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Help and support or separated familes