My friend has a lot of troubles with her relationships. I want to help her, but I’m a teen myself with stuff going on in my life, too. How can I be a better friend to my best friend?
–AK, Cranston, RI
You aren’t your friend’s therapist. You are not responsible for her bad luck, her bad days, and the troubles that have surrounded her. Problems with her relationships are not yours. You can, however, be her friend by continuing to listen to her.
Really listening means not only hearing her words but watching her body language, and also capturing the tone of her voice. Does she sound as though she feels like crying? Ask her if she cries a lot.
Is she experiencing a huge disappointment that she wants to talk about, such as her parents’ divorce or the death of a classmate.
It is altogether possible that she needs a confidante, someone to confide in about her fears and anxieties.
If you feel that your friend is having dark thoughts and is depressed, and may be hurting herself, isn’t eating, or is talking about killing herself, you need to immediately tell someone like your mother whom you can trust.
A school councilor, teacher or coach would also be ideal, although you would have to bring your friend along so that the adult can access the situation for herself.
You need to understand that depression is a sickness. Ask about how she is feeling just the way you would ask about her sore throat, if she has a bad cold.
Let your friend know that you are willing to talk about sad things as well as happy ones, in order to give her permission to express how she is really feeling.
Most importantly, ASAP talk to an adult whom you know will follow through in assisting your friend in finding the professional help she needs.
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Accepting A Compliment