By Elizabeth Fedrick, PhD, LPC

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
– Maya Angelou

Being a teenager is hard. Like, really hard. Yes, we certainly know it can be great as well. There are lots of new experiences, tons of fun events, and so many hopes and dreams about what the future holds. But, also, there is a lot of homework, and chores, and annoying siblings, and rules, and never enough time to sleep. So, yes, while we can acknowledge that teen years can be truly wonderful, we can also acknowledge that they can be extremely difficult at the same time.

Possibly one of the hardest things about being a teen is that the people closest to us are also going through difficult times. On top of the already stressful aspects of being a teen, sometimes there are also additional stressors, like fears for the future, family or peer conflict, living in unsafe or unstable environments, or other traumatic events that we were completely unprepared for. So, not only do we have all our own stress and issues to worry about, but our friends are also struggling. This is rough since we often aren’t even sure how to help ourselves, so how in the world do we know how to help a friend?! Fear not… Here are some ideas to help when your bestie is not at their best.

Just Listen: One of the best ways to help someone going through a hard time is by just listening. This can be a hard skill to learn because it is easy to jump in and try to relate to their          experience. We might say something like, “Oh, I totally get it. That happened to me too and I felt…”  But you can see where this sentence is going. When we respond this way, it makes the conversation about us, instead of our friend. Try not to take over the conversation, but instead just hear what they are saying.

Ask Follow-Up Questions: After a friend finishes what they were saying, take this opportunity to ask follow-up questions and keep the conversation about them. Try to use open-ended questions, such as, “what was that like for you?” or “how do you feel about that?” Asking questions shows that we are interested and care about their experience.

Provide Validation: It is important for people to know their feelings are understandable and okay. We can say things like “that must have been so hard for you” or “I can understand why you are sad.” Validating someone’s feelings is essential to help them feel heard, seen, and understood.

Suggest Fun Activities: Though it is beneficial to have time to vent and feel supported, sometimes talking about a problem for too long has the opposite effect and becomes unproductive. It can be helpful to offer fun and enjoyable activities to help your friend focus on something else for a while. Keep in mind, we don’t want to use this approach to avoid, but rather to refocus.

Seek Help from an Adult: At times, a friend’s safety or well-being might be a concern. In these situations, it is necessary to seek help from an adult. The best way to know when to do this is if you ever question, “hmm… I wonder if I should tell an adult about this?” … The answer is always, yes!

It is important to keep in mind that it is never your “job” to solve a friend’s problem or to make their situation better. You are never responsible for your friend’s mental health or their behaviors. However, if a friend is having a hard time, it feels great to be knowledgeable and prepared about how to best be emotionally available and supportive.


Dr. Elizabeth Fedrick is a Licensed Professional Counselor and owns a private practice, Evolve Counseling, in Gilbert, Arizona. She specializes in various areas, including depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship issues, and personal improvement. In addition to providing therapeutic services, Elizabeth also teaches Behavioral Health courses for Grand Canyon University.