Do you have a friend who is separating?
It can be hard to know the best way to help them.
Having experienced separation first-hand and helped hundreds of separating couples, here are some suggestions to support, comfort and guide your mate during this challenging time.
LET THEM SIT WITH IT
Even if separating has been on the cards for a while, when it actually happens, it can be shocking.
Encourage them to sit with it. Allow the torrid of emotions to flow but suggest that they don’t take action on anything just yet.
By being their sounding board, you are letting them express their feelings in safe place. The result is that they are less likely to vent at their ex, the kids or total strangers … none of which is conducive to an amicable and peaceful separation process.
Further reading: Ways to remove your emotions from your financial settlement process.
FILTER THE ADVICE THEY RECEIVE
It is likely that your friend will receive a myriad of advice from everyone including friends, family members, even people they don’t know that well who have experienced their own separation and feel they have something to offer.
Do them a favour by reminding your friend that although the advice is well-meaning, it is not necessarily correct. In fact, no two family separations are the same, so what works for one family may not work for another.
Advise them to listen but not to act. Some advice will be hugely helpful but sifting through it is key to making sensible decisions that will work for their unique family circumstances.
GUIDE THEM TOWARDS PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT
You can really help an overwhelmed friend by guiding them gently towards expert support given by professionals in the field of separation.
This can be as simple as finding them reliable online resources such as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website which provides government level information including divorce, separation, children, property and other family law matters.
The correct information they need is out there and is mostly free, just make sure they are looking the right places!
THEY DON’T NEED A LAWYER
A common mistake made by most people going through a separation is to hire a lawyer straight-away.
Ensure your friend aware that if they take this path then both parties must hire separate family lawyers, which adds two hefty bills to the amount of money to be split.
It is a myth that you need a family lawyer to separate. Increasingly more couples are avoiding lawyers for faster, more amicable and cost-effective outcomes.
Recommend your friend makes use of free online support, mediators and/or specialised separation accountants which give them more control over how the separation is managed, and of course, saves them heaps!
Further reading: What to be wary of when using a family lawyer.
Although most people don’t know what day of the week it is when they first separate, there will come a time when they want to take action and be productive.
This is a perfect opportunity to channel their energy into getting practicalities in place, including but not limited to:
- Make a note of their separation date
- Make changes to bank accounts and credit cards
- Cancel the redraw facility on their home loan
- Gather documentation required for the property settlement
See this free eBook Going through a property settlement? Here’s what you need to know for more detailed information.
Trust us that they will thank you for helping them to get this organised. It will put them on the front foot for everything separation-related moving forward.
ENCOURAGE SELF CARE
Whilst paperwork, legalities and expert advice are all important. Just as important is ensuring your friend is taking care of themself.
It is all too easy to become engulfed in the stress and complications of the situation alongside the welfare of the children involved. However, without proper self-care they will be unable to manage this load.
You can be sure that self-care is bottom of your friends to-do list, which means it is your job to move it to the top.
GIVE THEM A BREAK
Instead of berating your friend for not following a self-care regime, force them into it!
Cook dinner for them and the kids while they take a bath. Invite them out for a walk. Or take the kids off their hands for a couple of hours while they take time for themselves.
Giving your mate a break and time to re-charge will allow them the mental and physical strength to forge on through their life as a newly separated parent.
FOCUS ON THE GOOD
Separation is upsetting, even for the person who instigated it. It is an unintended change to a life plan which can feel overwhelming and scary.
Be conscience of your friends mindset and help them focus on the positives.
Remind them that this period is a phase and their life will settle down again. Talk about exciting ideas for the future and possibilities that may become available to them.
It might seem obvious but for those wallowing in the deep recesses of a messy separation, such reminders will act as a guiding light.
SUPPORT THEIR KIDS TOO
For any parent separating, their biggest concern is their children and the worry of how the separation will impact them.
This is where you can become an invaluable resource!
Often children don’t like to talk to their parents about the separation for fear of upsetting the other parent. In which case, you could be their confidant whilst keeping an eye out for red flags that they need more support.
It can be as simple as collecting them from school or taking them to the movies and helping them adjust to their new normal.
The kids will love you for it, but your friend will love you even more!