Help Literacy Hub

How to help from a distance

AUTHOR: Dr Susan Palmer

It can be a real challenge to know how you can best support someone you care about who is doing it tough when you don’t live close by.

So often we show support by doing practical tasks (eg meals or transport) and face-to-face social connection (eg dropping by for a chat) – but you don’t need to let distance stop you from providing support.

When the more common support options are taken away by distance, it just means that we need to get a bit more creative about providing support.

One of the best things that you can do for anyone going through a tough time – whether you live next door or on the other side of the county – is to make sure that you stay connected to them.

Regular social connection and social support can often fade away when things get tough as many people find these experiences, such as illness or death, awkward and difficult to be around. No matter how far away you are, you can still maintain regular contact and provide constant support.

We recommend regular contact across different platforms. You can use a combination of phone calls, SMS, WhatsApp groups, online games, and even old-school written letters to make sure you stay connected.

Having a range of ways to provide this support is important as there may be times when the person in need does not feel like the intensity of a phone call or facetime – but still benefits from knowing you are there.

You could:

– Set regular dates to watch favourite shows together. Reality TV is very popular for this.

– Play word games together like Words with Friends or Wordle

– Do online puzzles together ‘

– Create a ‘JOKES ONLY’ WhatsApp group

All of these activities help people stay connected but don’t necessarily require talking. They also add new dimensions to any conversations you do have which can be really valuable because the world can seem like it is getting smaller when you are going through a tough time and it is always good to have respite from constantly talking about stuff related to the serious issue at hand.

If you do want to try to support someone at a distance in this way, make sure you have a chat to them about your desire to support them like this. Share you plan with them (eg. you take the lead in explaining how you plan to support from a distance) and see if they have any favourite ways they want to suggest also.

No matter what you end up doing – providing regular contact and support during a challenging time is going to have a positive impact. So why don’t you just get started and work out what works best as you go along…

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