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How to Support a Sibling During Divorce

by Rosenya Faith

Whether the parting of ways is an amicable separation or your sibling’s divorce resembles a battle more than a legal proceeding, you can help to ease his transition from married to single and self-sufficient. While covering his bills and taking over his day-to-day responsibilities can give him a few moments to breathe, the most important type of support you can offer your sibling is your time and attention.

Practical Support

A divorce can create a substantial amount of financial strain. You can help your sibling by offering her a place to stay if she needs some time to get back on her feet. The financial break gives her an opportunity to establish a financial cushion before heading out on her own. If your sibling has children, you can offer to drive them to school, chauffeur them to extracurricular activities or take them for an overnight slumber party to give her a brief break. Help her organize and purge her belongings, bring her home-cooked meals if she's staying in her own place and check in with her at least every two to three days to see if there is any other practical support you can offer.

Listen Up

Give your sibling an ear to bend and a shoulder to lean on during the process of her divorce. It’s common to begin feeling isolated during a divorce; many friends were mutual friends, and in-law siblings and relatives become part of an uncomfortable zone. If you don’t know what to say, simply let your sibling know that you’re there for him and you won’t abandon him. You’re there to listen, to hang out or to help him get distracted -- whatever a sibling needs. If he needs to get his emotions out, welcome as many late-night venting sessions as he needs to work through his grief. If the divorce proceedings have been rough and there's a lot of blame flying around -- including self-blame -- reassure him that he isn't a bad person; this is a tough situation that he's going through.

Bite Your Tongue

While it might be tempting to engage in a little ex-bashing, don’t encourage your sibling to be vicious -- and definitely don’t be the one to knock down her spouse. If her feelings are still conflicted, she might be angered or hurt by your comments. If she’s currently bent on anger, your comments will only stir up her anger even more, not helping to ease or calm the situation at all. Don’t encourage your sibling to be conniving, taking her spouse for every cent he has, and avoid encouraging her to act on the assumption that he’s going to drain the accounts either.

Get Moving

While your sibling might be tempted to withdraw from the world during a divorce, you can help him stay connected. Plan small, low-key outings like a picnic in the park or an evening at the roller skating arena. Rekindle his passion for art with a visit to a new art museum exhibit, or embrace the time of year with a trip to a local seasonal fair. Look for activities that offer community involvement or encourage your sibling to try something he's never done before: learning about woodworking, taking up tennis or planting his first herb garden.

About the Author

Rosenya Faith has been working with children since the age of 16 as a swimming instructor and dance instructor. For more than 14 years she has worked as a recreation and skill development leader, an early childhood educator and a teaching assistant, working in elementary schools and with special needs children between 4 and 11 years of age.

Photo Credits

  • BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images