It can be very difficult seeing family members struggling financially and you might be really tempted to help them to get rid of their debt. However, it may not be as straight forward as you expect.
To start with you will need to make sure that they want you to help. In any situation it is impossible trying to help someone unless they really want you to help them. This is because they will just be determined not to change anything. They may be happy as they are or they may just not want help from you. They may see your request to help as a criticism of their behaviour and this could have a big impact on your relationship with them. You may end up falling out with them and that would not be good at all.
If they do want help then it is important to give them the right sort of help. Do not get cross with them about the situation they are in, they will know that it is not a good situation to be in or else they would not be asking for help. Try to remain calm and if they are in a lot more debt than you were expecting try not to appear too shocked! It can be easy to ask them how they managed to get in so much debt, what they have to show for the money, if they regret it and things like that. However, this will not help them or you and so it is best if you do not get involved if you think that you might be tempted to say things like that.
It can be tempting, if you can afford to do it, to offer them the money to pay off their debts. Although this would be a very kind gesture and would be likely to be very much appreciated, it may not be the best way to go about things. If you just give them money, they will not learn how to get out of debt and they may just start getting in debt again thinking that they could be bailed out by you again in the future. You will not be able to afford to do it all the time and you may find that there is jealousy from siblings if you help out one and ignore another who may be working hard to stay out of debt.
Therefore it is much better to teach them how to budget their money so that they can start to pay off those debts. They will need to know exactly how much they owe and to whom and then they will be able to choose which they would like to pay back first. You may need to show them how to reduce what they are spending and increase what they are earning so that they will be able to do this. They will also need to choose which debt to start paying off first. This could be the most expensive, which would make sense financially as it will be most economical. However, they may prefer to get rid of some smaller debts to start with so that they can just clear some. This method works better for some people as they feel like that are having a bigger impact on getting rid of the debt and it can be more motivating as well.
If you still feel like you want to give them some money, then wait until they have been budgeting for a while and started to repay some debt. They will have already learned some valuable lessons about spending and earning and repaying by then and so they will be less likely to get into debt again, as they will know how difficult it can potentially be to get out again. They will also know how to continue to repay the debt, if your contribution is not enough to repay all of it.
You may find, that despite your best interests, it is too difficult for you to help a family member. You may not be able to get on well when discussing things, it may be hard to be patient or you may just find that you do not have the knowledge to help. There are free debt services available where help can be given to advise someone on how to get on track with repaying debt. It may be wise to give them the details of one of these and let them be guided through it by an expert. You could still encourage them and help them but not being so directly involved could be much better for your relationship with them.