Family and friends – what to do

When a friend or family member is caring for a seriously ill child or their child has died, you may not know what to say or do. Your genuine concern and desire to help will be of comfort. Think about some of the following suggestions.


Support can be offered in practical ways, such as bringing a meal to your friend's house, running errands or offering to inform other extended family and friends. Give your friend an idea of what you are able to do.


When entering your friend's home, be respectful of the family, their routine and need for privacy. Be prepared that it might not be a good day for visitors.


Your friend will sometimes need to talk about his or her experience, and other times will choose not to. Watch for signs or ask them whether they want to discuss their experience, be distracted or just be quiet.


When in doubt, ask your friend how you can best offer your help and support. Try to keep on task when providing help and be mindful they may be too exhausted and busy to talk.


Sometimes simple gestures like a card, flowers, baking or a basket of treats is a way of showing that you care.


Remember siblings—if you take a present for the sick child, try to give some special attention or a small gift to the siblings as well.

Help the family maintain their routine whenever possible by providing transport and babysitting.

Be aware of the child's health condition. If you are unwell or have been near another sick person, don't visit.


Provide ways for children to keep in contact with their friends or peers.
Find out if there is a roster for home help, meals and transport, or offer to coordinate or set one up.

Help to share with others what the family like to eat, and what everyone is cooking. Deliver food for dinner by 5pm and aim for provision of a complete meal that is easy to heat and serve.

Help with general household tasks, such as:

  • wash clothes or dishes
  • clean and tidy around the house
  • walk the dog
  • answer the phone or help answer correspondence
  • drive your friend or family member to places they need to go
  • mow the lawn or take care of the garden
  • grocery shopping
  • pick up medications or supplies.

Remember your aim is to support your friend and the key is to provide help which is dependable, sensitive and easy for them to accept.


Next: Information for professionals