When your friend’s child is sick, you want to help. But what’s the best way to help your friends, but not be a nuisance? Thomas Hobson, director of Child Life at Le Bonheur, shares five suggestions for being there for your friends while their child is hospitalized.

Listen (without judgment)

Ask them how they’re doing/feeling and truly listen. They’re going through a stressful situation, so there may be some things said that are out of the ordinary for the person. Remember to just listen without judgment.

Offer to help with basic things around the house

Life continues to go on and all of the normal tasks and responsibilities of life do, as well. By offering to help with some of the most typical things, like grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, can go a long way. It takes additional stresses off of the family.

Knowing when to help

I can’t even begin to count the number of families I’ve seen who don’t want to add to anyone’s stress and decline some wonderful offers from their support system. Sometimes, you just have to have tough love and do it for the person anyway. Now, let me caution you on this, because it’s a fine balance between an act of love and an act of annoyance. I find that people closest to the family can get away with doing this. So, if you’re a colleague or a more causal friend, you might want to think twice.

Sit with the patient while they’re in the hospital

Lots of parents and caregivers don’t want to leave their child alone while in the hospital. As the length of a hospital stay goes on, it adds extra stress on the parent. A wonderful way to help is to offer to sit with their child so they can get a break. Even a few short hours can make a big difference.

Help out with siblings

Another option to help support a family that has a child in the hospital is helping out with siblings. While one child is in the hospital, life continues on for the other siblings. Simple things like picking the child up from school, giving rides to activities, or offering opportunities for play time are wonderful support for the entire family.