Helping a friend means being there for them when they share things with you, trying to understand what they’re going through, and it can also mean helping them find help. Just the fact that you are trying to find the best way to help them means you’re a good friend! 😊
What does it mean to be there for someone?
It means being empathetic. In other words, it means trying to see things from their perspective rather than downplaying the problem or treating it like something everyone goes through.
It means giving them your full attention. You can’t focus on multiple things at once. It’s been proven! If you’re trying to be there for someone, that means it’s important to find a time and place where you can give them your full attention, without distractions.
It means being respectful and listening without judging, no matter what. A good way to do this is to focus on feelings, because it can be hard to tell what someone else is feeling.
It means not jumping into “problem solving mode” right away. Often, people don’t necessarily need advice—they just need to feel understood. Listening and encouraging your friend to share will help them understand what they really need and find solutions by themselves.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand what they’re thinking, without necessarily shouldering their entire burden yourself. It involves feeling what they’re feeling because you’re identifying with what the other person is saying and imagining how it would make you feel.
For example, if you have a friend who is dealing with heartbreak, you can be empathetic by imagining how you would feel in that situation. You don’t necessarily need to have gone through the same thing yourself!
When you should be concerned
Here are some signs to watch out for:
👉 The person is suffering a lot (for instance, they’re crying a lot or feeling completely overwhelmed)
👉 They don’t have a trusted adult who’s aware that they’re struggling
👉 They’ve changed recently (having mood swings, becoming withdrawn, eating or sleeping less, etc.)
👉 They can’t see any solutions to their problem
👉 You’re worried about their safety
If you notice one or more of these signs, your friend likely needs professional help. As a friend, your job is to let them know you’re worried and tell an adult you trust (like your parents or theirs, a teacher, or a school counsellor).
Listening to a friend’s secrets
It can be hard to know how to react when a friend tells you something really important. Here are 5 tips for dealing with a tough situation.