Talking to a friend about difficult issues

If you’re worried about a friend, talking to them can be a real help.

It can be really tricky – even a bit nerve wracking - to know how to start a conversation.

Remember - people often want to talk about a problem but wait until they’re asked.

What if they don’t want to talk?

If they are bottling things up inside it might be because they are scared of talking about what’s going on. Sometimes people find it hard to talk because:

  • They think they’ll get in trouble
  • They think you or other people will judge them
  • They are being told by someone not to talk about a problem

You should never force someone to talk about a problem. If they don’t want to talk, let them know you’re always there to listen. Maybe they’ll change their mind later on.

Remember – you can support your friend by listening to them but a lot of problems you won’t be able to solve on your own.

Always seek support from an adult you trust if you think your friend is unsafe.

Starting a conversation

  • Find a good time and place.

    Choose a time and place when they will be comfortable, have enough time and won’t be interrupted.

  • Ask them ‘open’ questions.

    ‘Open’ questions are questions that need more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. You can ask questions like ‘how are things going?’ or ‘how are you feeling?’ Your friend can then talk about the problem if they want to.

  • Listen more than you talk.

    Often just telling someone else about a problem can make someone feel better. Let them know you’re there to listen.

  • Tell them what you’re worried about.

    If you’ve noticed a change in their behaviour or you think they have been doing things which are unsafe, talk about what you’ve noticed. Let them know you’re talking about it because you care about them.

  • Be upfront and tell them you won’t judge them.

    Tell them you care about them and ask what they’d like from you.

If your friend tells you something that worries you:

  • Don’t judge them, just listen.

    Try not to put words into your friend’s mouth or tell them what they are feeling. Listen more than you speak. Let them tell you what’s going on. Listen and support them.

  • If you think they’re in danger tell them you will seek help.

    Don’t promise to keep secrets. If your friend tells you something which means they could be in danger you must seek help from an adult you trust, like a teacher or a parent. You shouldn’t keep secrets if they could hurt your friend or other young people.

  • Support them to get help.

    If you think your friend is unsafe you should support them to get help. This could be from your parent or carer, teacher, youth worker, police officer, doctor or social worker. Offer to talk to them with your friend or ask them to get help for your friend. You could also tell them about organisations they can contact like ChildLine or CEOP.

  • Help them weigh up the pros and cons.

    If they’re worried about telling someone or getting support, help them consider the positives and negatives of talking to an adult. Help them consider different possible outcomes and what they want to happen.

  • If your friend is in danger from someone online report to CEOP or help your friend make a report.

    If you’re worried your friend is being sexually abused online or in the real world you can report to CEOP. Whatever has happened CEOP will understand and be able to help make it stop. Do this by clicking on the ClickCEOP button when you see it on a site or click here.

  • Get support for yourself.

    You probably feel very anxious about what your friend has told you. You too need support to deal with what has happened. Talk to an adult you trust about how you are feeling. You might find it helpful to talk to a counsellor: you could ask your teacher or doctor to refer you to a counselling service. Remember, you can call ChildLine to talk to someone at any time of day or night on 0800 1111 or at

  • Don’t take it all on yourself.

    Be realistic about the situation. You might have done all the right things, but you still might not be able to help your friend. Remember, what has happened is not your fault and you have done your best to get help. Make sure you are getting the support you need yourself.

Organisations who can help

Talk to someone


ChildLine is a free helpline for children and young people. You can contact ChildLine about anything. No problem is too big or too small. Whatever your worry, it's better out than in.

ChildLine is a private and confidential service. Confidential means not telling anyone else what you’ve said. This means that whatever you say stays between you and ChildLine.

They would only need to tell someone else if:

  • You ask them to
  • We believe your life or someone else’s life is in immediate danger
  • You are being hurt by someone in a position of trust who has access to other children like a teacher or police officer
  • You tell us that you are seriously harming another young person

Call them on 0800 1111. The number won’t appear on your phone bill.

You can also visit to speak to a counsellor online.

Report it


CEOP helps young people who are being sexually abused or are worried that someone they’ve met is trying to abuse them.

If you’ve met someone online, or face to face, and they are putting you under pressure to have sex or making you feel uncomfortable you should report to CEOP.

This might be someone:

  • Making you have sex when you donʼt want to
  • Chatting about sex online
  • Asking you to meet up face to face if youʼve only met them online
  • Asking you to do sexual things on webcam
  • Asking for sexual pictures of you
  • Making you feel worried, anxious or unsafe

If this is happening to you, or you’re worried that it might be, you can report this to CEOP.