How to Help a Friend When Life Sets Them Back

Helping a friend is complicated. When a friend is in trouble, you want to help: but how do you do it without injuring their pride? A handout from a friend can be insulting, and, in some situations, it could even ruin a relationship.

What are friends for if not to help? The secret is helping without being patronizing or pushy. Every situation is different, which is why we’ve provided examples of different scenarios and different solutions.

Help Them Handel Financial Trouble

Financial issues are tricky. While a box full of food might help someone out, you run the risk of seeming like a food pantry, and most people aren’t so poor they can’t afford groceries. Instead, you can find ways to counsel them without seeming superior.

In all likelihood, your friend knows that their debt situation, spending habits, or lifestyle choices are out of control. Instead of offering advice, just listen. When your friend is willing to confess their financial worry, they will. If they ask for advice, you can counsel them on high risk high reward stocks to start building up their retirement fund or online payday loans in Canada to lessen their financial burden. But when it comes to financial trouble, let your friend ask for help first.

Helping Them Face Unemployment

Everyone feels down on themselves when they’re unemployed, especially if they were let go. Your friend’s family might be short on luxuries, but bringing over ice cream for the kids can be both invasive and offensive.

Instead, express sympathy. “It sucks,” is usually sufficient, since you don’t want to go overboard with pity. You could also offer a letter of recommendation or a personal recommendation if they’re applying to your a job within your industry.

If your friend is having trouble for a specific reason, you could also find a way to help out. For example, consider an immigrant friend who isn’t fully bilingual. You might offer to help them practice English, or you could encourage them to seek out the help of an English tutor online. You could even sneak it into the conversation with an anecdote if you needed to.

Helping Them With Personal Injury

When a friend is injured in a car accident, Uber accident, or work accident, they’re in a lot of trouble. They may be injured and can’t work. They may not be able to leave the house easily, drive, cook, or clean. They may have hospital bills to deal with and trauma. It’s hard to watch a friend go through this.

Your friend may need to get expert help. Offer to get the name of a personal injury attorney and make a recommendation. It might be over-the-line to give your friend a check, but making a personal injury lawyer recommendation is the perfect balance. A lawyer will win them the financial compensation they need, and you won’t seem pushy or patronizing.

Helping Them Navigate Relationships

It’s hard to offer advice to a friend when their marriage is on the rocks. The situations can vary widely, as well. Was your friend having an affair? Did their spouse have an affair? Are the two of them constantly bickering? Is their spouse verbally abusive?

Your role as the friend will vary depending on the situation. If the problem is the friend (they’re harsh, inconsiderate, had an affair, etc.) then you might need to take a hard line. Don’t put up with their unjust behavior. You don’t have a right to out their affair, but you can make it clear you don’t tolerate, approve of, or condone their behavior.

If your friend is the victim, either of an affair, a harmful relationship, or just a marriage gone south with poor communication, you can provide the listening ear. A little empathy goes a long way, and so does support. Offer your guest bedroom as a safe place to spend the night, and if things are serious, encourage your friend to separate from their spouse as soon as possible.

Parenting Problems

Have you ever sat on the edge of your seat, torn between disciplining someone else’s kids and tolerating ridiculous behavior?

Unsolicited parenting advice doesn’t exactly go down easily. You don’t want to turn to your friend and say, “So… how often do you give your four-year-old timeouts?”

On the other hand, it can be agonizing to watch. I once sat on the couch of a friend, watching their three-year-old steal popsicles out of the freezer all night long. “No,” his parents said. The toddler walked away. Then, he did it again. He ate more popsicles that night than he should probably have eaten all week, and all his parents did was murmur at him. You could see from the glint in this kid’s eye: his parents were pushovers. It wasn’t just my presence holding back their parenting skills. I feared not only for the toddler’s stomach but for his life skills.

Bad parenting is serious. It harms children, and it can be painful to see.

While abusive behavior of any kind should be reported to the police, there are plenty of bad parenting behaviors that don’t require legal interference. What do you do when your friend is that kind of parent?

Usually, it helps to be open about your own parenting struggles and even seek advice from your friend. This opens the doorway for them to do the same. If you can, sign up for a parenting class together. It’s amazing the tips and tricks you can learn to ease the burden of parenting, and your friend’s kids will be so much better off because of it.

When a friend is in trouble, there’s a fine line between keeping our mouths shut and doing too much. If you have a friend who’s struggling, start thinking about ways you can help, without crossing a line. A friend in need is a friend indeed, and you can provide the support your friend is secretly looking for.