Checking in when they check out

Early childhood Family & friends High school Primary school Practical parenting Staying connected

Your friend hasn’t been in touch for more than a fortnight. They usually call every couple of days, or text at least. Hardly a week goes by without organising a playdate for the kids or a yarn over coffee. The last time you caught up, they looked pretty tired, and not the normal kind of parent tired but outright exhausted. Come to think of it, they were unusually short with their kids too. Sure, they might just have a lot on—we are all being challenged in many ways right now—but what if it’s something more?

That feeling? That’s your gut saying your friend might not be OK. But, surely they’d let you know if they weren’t, right? Well, not always. Reaching out for help can be hard, especially when everyone else seems to be managing OK. So, what can you do?

Start a conversation. As parents, talking about the common challenges of raising children can be a helpful way to check in with your friend, show them you understand their struggles, and create a safe space for them to open up. Ask if they are OK.

Listen with an open mind. We all parent differently, and what works for someone might not work for someone else. Make sure they know they won’t be judged for sharing their experience.

Encourage action. Ask if there is a way you can help them. You could offer to mind their kids while they take some time for themselves. Or you could offer suggestions of things that have worked for you when you were struggling. If the conversation is too big for you to take on alone, or if you think your friend is at risk, encourage them to seek help from a professional. oneplace has details of more than 58,000 family and community services in Queensland, and Parentline offers professional counselling and support over the phone.

Check in. Organise that playdate or coffee catch up and ask them how they are going. They might not have done anything since you last spoke or they may not want to talk about it. And that’s OK. Knowing that you are there for them can make a huge difference in where they go from here.

Are you OK? It’s a little question that can have a big impact. Your friend might not need anything more than a quick chat today, but next time they might. Either way, they’ll be grateful you asked.

R U OK? DAY is 9 September 2021. You can find more resources at ruok.org.au

Last Updated: 25 August 2021