Posted: 12 September 2019

How to talk to your friend when they're feeling low

Our Good Childhood Report found that children's unhappiness with their friendships is increasing. Reasons are varied but include bullying, excessive social media use and being unable to spend time with friends outside of school. 

At a time when young people are showing growing concerns over crime, school, family finances and more, having support from friends has never been more important. 

That's why we've compiled a list of tips for talking to your friend when they're feeling low. 

8 tips for talking to your friend when they're feeling low

Listen.

It seems obvious but listening to your friend, or simply letting them know you’re happy to listen is the most important thing. People’s willingness to talk varies but you can ask open questions and show them you’re interested in how they’re feeling.

Accept.

Acknowledge and accept how your friend feels. Don’t be critical or try any ‘quick fixes’ – it’s much better to try and understand how they’re feeling and work through it on their terms. It’s important your friend doesn’t feel pressured to behave in a different way. This will make things worse. 

Be open.

Being open and honest about your life will show that it’s ok to talk. Sometimes it’s good to chat normally and try not to focus on anything in particular. Sometimes you might want to share personal difficulties. The most important thing is to be calm, patient and open to talking.  

Learn.

The causes of your friend’s low mood may be unclear but it’s worth reading up on issues that may apply. Our resource vault has information and advice on many different issues affecting young people.

Help.

If your friend is struggling with school work or chores, maybe offer to tackle the tasks together. They may say ‘no’ if you ask ‘is there anything I can help with?’ but try ‘let’s do our homework together’. Sharing a task can make it more manageable and achievable.

Encourage.

It’s also important you encourage them to try things themselves. You shouldn’t be helping with everything. The level of support needed is different for different people and it shouldn’t get to the stage where your own well-being is being affected. Be open to talking with your friend and their family over what help is needed.

Invite.

It’s difficult to be proactive when you’re feeling low. Social situations can be daunting and cancelling plans can often lead to guilt and an even lower mood. If you are able to keep in contact with your friend and send them invites, it shows them that people still want to socialise and they are there if you need them.

Support.

Most importantly, you should be familiar with support systems available to your friend. You can’t force someone to get help but you can let them know what help is available. You can look into local services offering support or consider calling a young person’s mental health helpline.

Only by listening to young people can we help them overcome the challenges of modern childhood and face their future with hope, confidence and optimism. 

It's time to show young people they matter. Pledge your support and let them know.

#IHEARYOUTH

By Kaja Zuvac-Graves
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