Think about the top 5 things that you value most in your life. Did your family and friends make the list? Last month’s post on the best baby shower gifts post received some great comments that all had something in common. All of the suggestions were great ways to help any friend in need. Sometimes it isn’t easy to know what to do for a new parent, someone who suffered a loss or maybe just seems down. When your spending aligns with what matters most to you it feels so much better. Here are my top 5 ideas to help a friend in need that beat saying “I’m sorry” or “call me if you need anything”.
Help around the house
Have you ever had your house or apartment cleaned? Many years ago before we had children we had a cleaning service that came twice a month. Sadly, when room in the budget was required this was the first expense to go. I daydream about coming home to a spotless house. One of my friends loves to clean – she takes days off while her kids are in school to clean. Not once in my life have I wanted to clean.
It may be that I was one of the youngest children in a family dominated by Italian women. Cleaning was just this constant that swirled around me that I took no active role in. I couldn’t finish a plate of food before it was whisked away and on a drying rack. If you have a friend that is struggling, cleaning their house is a nice way to show that you care and want to take care of them. You can check out a service local to them on Yelp or Facebook and pay for it (this is great if you aren’t nearby). If your friend isn’t one to want strangers in their home you can always head over with some supplies and do it yourself.
Help them cook
When I’m busy or stressed out I forget to eat. Self-care seems to take a back seat when our minds get overwhelmed. When I had my first child I was so concerned about how much he was eating I didn’t care about food. When I was pregnant it was all I cared about! If someone is sick it might change their appetite dramatically. Depression can cause people to lose weight rapidly because the enjoyment that used to come from food isn’t there. It can also cause people to eat poorly. Eating healthy is important to our bodies no matter where our heads are at. Cooking some meals for your friend is a great way to help them take care of their basic needs. Can’t cook? You can always send something like this Beef Bourguignon with Mashed Potatoes and Herbed Green Beans by Chef’d (Dinner for 2) so you don’t do more harm than good. I’ve used A Spoonful of Comfort several times and really love their story and products.
Help them with the kids
When you are a new parent everyone offers to come watch your baby. The thing is, new parents tend to want to be with their babies all the time. When you have a couple toddlers those offers seem to be few and far between. If one of your friends is going through tough times offer to watch their kids for an afternoon or evening. This mini break might be just what they need to clear their heads and just be “off-duty” for awhile. It is expensive to find babysitting and sometimes if you don’t have anything special to do it feels like a waste of money. Make it easy for them by being available when it is convenient for them and go have some fun with those kids you love. It is good for you too!
Help them with the bills
I’m not suggesting you pay since most people can’t afford that kind of generosity. However, bills can pile up when someone is going through a rough patch. It might be because the money isn’t there or maybe it is just not a priority. Being late on payments is devastating to a person’s credit history and can have long lasting impacts. A way to help without being too intrusive would be to offer to organize some routine tasks. One of those tasks can include paying the bills on time.
Help them set up automatic payments if possible so they won’t have to worry about it going forward. If that isn’t available you can set up reminders so they don’t forget. Also, if they did fall behind help them reach out to creditors to explain the situation and get them back in good standing. None of these tasks are hard but they do take effort. I missed a payment when I was on maternity leave but the late fee and penalty rate were erased in minutes after one call explaining what happened and moving to auto-pay. It’s worth the phone call.
Say helpful things
I’m a pro-bono financial coach for cancer patients, and my biggest fear when I started was not knowing what to say. I put that irrational fear aside when I met my first client. She didn’t reach out to me to get sympathy, she wanted some help with her money. I know how to do that, phew! That and doing a little homework helped. Reading No Longer Awkward: Communicating with Clients Through the Toughest Times of Life can help you learn better things to say to people who are going through a tough time. This book is helpful to anyone that might feel a little inept when it comes to communicating effectively with people in difficult situations. Now I have better things to say to help build a deeper connection quickly.
Also, checking in periodically is a must. It’s better to touch base often than tell them they can reach out if they need you. Maybe they don’t want to be a burden but would welcome a call or text when things quiet down after awhile. Ask if it would be helpful for you to run an errand for them or get back to someone for them. A open ended “what do you need” might be too overwhelming to think about – be direct. If someone lost a job their days might feel long and lonely. If someone lost a spouse, nights could be really tough. It might help to be available during those times. Finally, listen more than you talk and remember that silence is ok too. It’s natural to try to relate anything that is uncomfortable (their feelings) to something you understand (yourself). Try to not make the conversation about you if you really want to help.
What is the best thing a friend or family member did for you when you needed it? Share your tips in the comments.