So your friend calls one night and tells you they are leaving their partner, but it's all good. 'Holy s**t', you're thinking, 'what should I say, what should I do'? At my last Meetup of single parents, it seemed many had gone through their separation quite estranged from their friends. Naturally friends assume they will reach out if they need help, but people don't, fearful of unleashing all their fears and trepidations ... especially the men. So here are the top five suggestions on how to support your recently separated friends.
1. Don't take sides
When you're friends with the couple, there seems to be this unwritten rule that you have to take sides, but you don't. When you do, things get complicated and its easier not to invite them to anything to save the worry of who 'not' to invite. So tell them openly that they are both your friends and you won't be taking sides. Invite them both to gatherings and it's up to them to work out if they attend.
2. Invite them over for a mid-week dinner
When your friend has been with someone for years and used to a full house at dinner time, it can be a lonely and depressing stage in the first few months. Walking into an empty house night after night can be soul destroying. Set one weekday night a fortnight for them to come to your place for dinner (when they don't have the kids). They can bring the dessert (or wine) and not only will it break up your week too, it will give them something positive to look forward to.
3. Help them get organised
It's natural for cortisol levels to rise through separation, with stress a constant state of being for weeks or months. While some people are amazing and can be fuelled positively to act when stressed, others are 'deers in a headlight' and stop functioning well at all. If that's your friend, sit down over a coffee and let them know you're going to help them get through this. First make a list with them of what they have to do and what they don't know how to do. Determine who can help them with the things they don't know how to do or where they can get information (Google is your friend, and Divvito will be too once launched). They then have a base plan and will love you for it!
4. Make sure they get help
Depression and anxiety come hand in hand with separation and divorce. Make sure your friend sees a counsellor or psychologist to get everything off their chest and be given the tools to work through their emotional upheaval. It's the best support you can give them and if your friend is a guy, keep pushing them to see someone, no matter how much they resist or say they're fine!
5. Offer to swap babysitting
If they have children, they will no doubt have some free nights with shared parenting. Suggest babysitting credits. They can look after your kids so you can rekindle date night with your partner, and then they won't feel terrible asking for your help when needed. Everybody wins.