Need some advice? Ask Daniela!
In this new UJA Teens Newsletter feature social worker, Daniela Aptowitzer will tackle your questions about friends, family, school, and more! To have your question answered in an upcoming newsletter, submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions will be kept completely anonymous.
Dear Daniela, I am having a really hard time managing everything going on right now. One of my friends is going through a really hard time and talks to me about their problems. I want to be supportive and a good friend, but I am feeling scared and worried. They are talking about harming themselves and are dealing with heavy family stuff right now. I want to be a good friend, but I don’t know how to handle this stuff and I can’t go to my parents because my friend made me promise I wouldn’t. I don’t want to be a bad friend but holding onto everything is really taking a toll on me.
Want to Be a Good Friend
Dear Want to Be a Good Friend,
This is a great question and something that I hear a lot. A good first step is to consider what being a good friend means to you? Honest, loyal, supportive, trustworthy, and accepting? These are all important traits in a healthy friendship, however, there are times when it feels hard to be all these things.
Developmentally, adolescents (ages 10-19) are meant to pull away from their parents and seek more time and connection with peers. Most teens seek closer connections with their peers as a way of practicing for adulthood. With a greater distance from your parents, it makes sense that friendships and romantic relationships seem that much more important.
Often teens develop such a close connection with their friends that it creates a strong bond and sense of commitment. There are a lot of benefits to showing your loyalty and trustworthiness as these traits help to form meaningful, mature, and genuine relationships. While forming these connections with your friends is important, you also need to remember that there are times when you do still need trusting adults in your life.
Knowing when to take a step back and include an adult in your life is really important. Teens often feel like they can’t break a promise made to a friend, losing awareness of when it’s time to seek further help. Here are some things to ask yourself when considering asking for help:
- Is it an issue of safety? - Safety for one’s mind, body, emotions, sexuality, etc.
- Are you being asked to keep a secret?
- Are you worried about yourself or someone else?
- Are there major issues involved? (drug use, abuse, gender, sexuality, pregnancy, etc.)
- Are you feeling stressed, nervous, worried, or anxious about the information you are holding onto?
It is up to you to decide when you need to include someone else to help manage these challenging situations, but you do not have to suffer alone. Talk to an adult that you trust, whether it is a parent, guidance counselor or someone from the Kids Help Phone. Even if your friend is upset or feels betrayed in the moment, they will see that you were only trying to help in the long run.
If you have found this helpful, check out this link for more information on how to help a friend you're worried about.
Daniela Aptowitzer is a social worker who works with children, teens, young adults, and parents for the past 19 years. Currently, Daniela is the School Social Worker at Montcrest School, an independent school in Toronto. Daniela previously worked at Jewish Family and Child Services, serving youth, parents and families of the Jewish community for 15 years.
For the past 7 years, Daniela has worked at Camp Northland B’nai Brith as their Director of Wellness, supporting campers, staff and families before camp as well as spending all summer onsite. Daniela has a lot of experience working with youth of all ages, focusing on relationships, self-confidence, anxiety and ADHD.