Dr. Friendtastic for Parents
Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Dimitri, Age 12: How to help a friend dealing with hard times

Dimitri, Age 12: How to help a friend dealing with hard times

Ep. 54 - Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic: Showing up for friends the way they want

Figuring out how to support a friend can be confusing. You have to think about the situation, your relationship, what the friend does or doesn’t like… Dimitri wants to know how to show up for a friend who is dealing with hard times.

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Scroll down for podcast TRANSCRIPT, DISCUSSION QUESTIONS, and how to submit YOUR CHILD’S QUESTION.

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Adults, please use your smartphone's memo function or an audio app to record your child's question. Hold the phone close to your child's mouth to make sure the recording is clear. Have your child state:

  1. their FIRST NAME (or another first name),

  2. their AGE, and

  3. a BRIEF QUESTION or concern about friendship. (Please do not include any friends' names.)

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Think About It Questions to discuss with your child

For a quick and easy friendship lesson, play the podcast up to the end of the kid’s question, then ask your child/students what advice they’d give. Play my answer, then use the discussion questions below to deepen your child’s/students’ understanding.

  • Think of a hard time you’ve been through. What kind of support from friends did you find helpful (or not helpful) during that time?

  • How could giving advice hurt a friendship?

  • What does Dr. Friendtastic mean when she says that your friend knows best what kind of support they need?

  • Why might listening be a good way to support a friend who is going through a hard time? 

  • What could you do to support a friend who doesn’t feel like talking about their problems?


Hi, there! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.

Let’s listen to today’s question:

Hi, my name is Dimitri, and I was wondering, how do I help a friend who is dealing with hard times?

Hi, Dimitri. What a kind question! Your friend is lucky to have you there to support him.

A lot of times, kids think that the best way to support a friend is to give them good advice. Sometimes that’s what a friend is looking for, especially if they ask direnctly, “What should I do?” But we need to be careful about giving advice because it can come across as “I know more than you.” 

Because friendship is a relationship between equals, giving advice can put a strain on the relationship. What if the friend doesn’t like the advice? What if the advice doesn’t work? Also, nobody likes to be told what to do!

Instead of telling a friend, “You should just…” you might want to focus on listening and acknowledging their feelings. You could say, “That sounds really upsetting. I’m so sorry you’re going through this!” Depending on the situation, you could try asking, “What do you think you’re going to do?” If you have an idea that you think might be helpful, you could mention it in a humble way, maybe saying, “One thing that sometimes helps me is…” But don’t take it personally if your friend doesn’t like that idea. 

Another thing that well-meaning but misguided friends sometimes do is turn the focus onto them. So they might say “I know exactly what you’re going through!” No they don’t! Everyone’s situation is different. Or they might say, “This is exactly like when my hamster got lost in our house!” No, it isn’t! And comparing a very serious situation to a less serious one feels like they’re saying the serious situation is no big deal. They’re trying to show connection, but turning the focus of the conversation onto them, when a friend is hurting, is not a caring thing to do. 

When I think of hard times, I think of situations where we don’t have a lot of control, and they’re difficult or impossible to solve. This might include divorce or unemployment, serious illness, or even death. I don’t know what your friend is facing, but I know for sure what your friend needs from you: keep showing up for him. 

Often when people are dealing with hard times, friends might be supportive at first, but then they disappear. They’re not trying to be mean, but they’re busy, or they don’t know what to say, or they find the idea of what the friend is going through scary or uncomfortable to be around, so they just stop reaching out and move on, and the friend going through the hard time is kind of left behind. This doesn’t feel good!

So, YOU be the kind of friend that hangs in there and keeps reaching out. You don’t have to solve the problem, just keep showing up. 

Figuring out how to support a friend can be confusing. You have to think about the situation, your relationship, what the friend does or doesn’t like…If you’re not sure what to do, who do you think knows best about what your friend needs? That’s right: It’s your friend! So, you might want to ask “How can I help?” or “Would you like to talk about things or would you rather be distracted and not talk about them?” These questions show you’re willing to follow your friend’s guidance about what would be most helpful to them at that time. 

You can also try doing small acts of kindness for your friend on an on-going basis. This shows your friend ”I’m thinking of you!”

This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question. 

Do you want to learn even more about friendship? Check out my funny and practical books for kids: Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends, and my new book, Growing Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Dealing with Emotions About Friends and Other Kids. They’re available through your library or wherever you buy books.

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The Dr. Friendtastic for Parents newsletter and the Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic podcast are for educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation. I trust you to use your judgment about what’s right for your child and your family.

Dr. Friendtastic for Parents
Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic is a podcast for children about making and keeping friends. Each 5-minute episode features an audio recording of a question about friendship from a kid plus a practical and thought-provoking answer from Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, (also known as Dr. Friendtastic,) who is an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ. For transcripts and discussion questions, go to https://DrFriendtastic.com/podcast. To submit a question, go to https://DrFriendtastic.com/submit.