Helping you get through tough times

What makes a good friend?

Friendships are a really important part of most people’s lives, with research showing that having a few close friends greatly increases our chances of being happy.

Girl with clay heart A good friend might be someone who helps you out when times are tough, or someone you can rely on to have a great time with and celebrate big moments.

You might see them every day, once a year, or less. You might hardly see them at all but keep in touch by phone, email, or online.

Different friends are good for different stuff, and will be around at different times in your life.

Inside that counts

Most importantly of all, good friends love you for who you are.

It doesn’t matter what a person looks like or what kind of clothes they wear, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Your friends should know that about you.

Likewise, having friends means you’ve a responsibility to be there for them too, even when the going gets tough.

What’s a good friend?

This is how a group of young people responded when asked about qualities that make a good friend. Someone who:

  • you can trust who won’t judge you
  • won’t deliberately hurt your feelings, but will show kindness and respect
  • will love you not because they feel they have to, but because they choose to
  • you can depend on, is loyal and whose company you enjoy
  • will be there no matter what your situation is
  • is trustworthy and not afraid to tell you the truth, no matter how hard it is sometimes
  • can laugh when you laugh
  • will cry when you cry
  • makes you smile
  • accepts you for who you are, and lend you an ear when you need to whine or complain
  • will give you room to change.

Being there

Friendships are among the most important relationships you’ll have in your life. Many of your favourite memories probably include times you’ve spent with friends.

Realise having friends can be hard work sometimes, when they get on your nerves or when they’re going through a tough time. Certain friendships can be very rewarding and others can be very demanding.

Not knowing what to do or say to help a friend can be frustrating and emotionally challenging.

However, doing your best to make them feel better shows you care about being a good friend.

How can I be there?

Listen – try to understand the situation from your friend’s point of view. This way you’ll know the right sort of questions to ask and they’ll know you care about how they feel.

Advice – don’t assume your friend wants advice. Sometimes all they need is someone to listen. If you feel out of your depth, advise them to talk to a professional, and offer to be there to support them. Check out getting help  for more on what help is out there.

Get the facts – if your friend has been diagnosed with a medical condition or mental illness, learning about their condition is a good way of showing your support. It shows you care and you’re not going to run away because your friend’s situation has changed. 

If there are support groups in your local area you could offer to accompany your friend and be there for them. Check out understanding mental health problems.

Protect them from themselves – if you think a friend is taking serious risks, like experimenting with drugs or alcohol, you may need to act without their consent to get them help. If you’re worried about your friend’s reaction, just remember it’s because you care about them and don’t want them to get hurt.

 Depending on the situation, you may need to seek outside help, whether it’s a teacher, counsellor, a family member or another adult.

Show you care – if your friend is going through a tough time, write them a letter or a poem showing how special they are to you. Remind them no matter how tough things get, you’ll be there for them because that’s what friendship is about.

Keep in touch – if you can’t physically be with your friend when they need you, send them an email, text, chat to them online or make a quick phone call to show you’re thinking about them.

Don’t forget yourself – supporting a friend through tough periods can put pressure on you, and it can help to talk to someone about it. This might be a teacher, counsellor, family member or another adult.
 Check out services explained for more details on who to contact for help, for you or your friend.

Know your limitations – there’s only so much you can do for a friend going through serious problems. You can’t fix everything, so if professional help is necessary, encourage your friend to seek it out.

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This article was last reviewed on 25 March 2017

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