Maintaining boundaries is important for the wellbeing of both you and the family. You will be in a position of power – you will regularly enter their private home, support them with very personal tasks and are a gateway to many services. They may also feel very grateful to you for helping them to resettle. Setting clear boundaries can help to address this power dynamic – boundaries help the family to maintain their privacy and autonomy, and by discouraging dependency.
Meanwhile, it’s important that as volunteers, you ensure that enthusiasm doesn’t lead you to overstretch yourselves in terms of time, energy or a sense of responsibility for the family you are supporting. This could be harmful to your own well-being and, also unhelpful for the family.
Signs of overworking as a befriender are:
- your private / family life being affected
- new, higher levels of physical or mental strain
Ways of avoiding being overworked include:
- Having set visiting times. Set a weekly visiting time and duration each week and trying to stick with that schedule. Flexibility will be required sometimes, but diverting from the set schedule should be kept to a minimum.
- Not being ‘on call’. You may decide that volunteers should not give out their own home phone number.
- Using your group support network – perhaps set up regular peer-to-peer support sessions, where you check in as a group.
- Remember that your ability to support is limited. You are not expected to “solve” all their problems. You can only provide key information, support them to access appropriate services, and to show warmth and kindness as they navigate their new life.
We recommend that you read these example guidelines, and then decide your own approach as a group.
Guidelines for Volunteers
Good Practice Guide for Befrienders