How to Help a Friend Deal With Family Problems

Hanging out with your friend can take her mind off her family issues.
... Jack Hollingsworth/Digital Vision/Getty Images

It's not just the Beatles who get by "With a Little Help From My Friends." Having a friend with family problems means that you may need to step in and help her to better deal with the situation at hand. Whether your friend has to handle an addicted parent, is in fear from abuse, or has another serious issue that her family is struggling with, provide a shoulder to lean on or help her find expert advice.

1 Substance Sadness

According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, roughly 11 million children under 18 years old have an alcoholic parent. If your friend has a parent who is an alcoholic or substance abuser, helping him to deal with this serious issue provides a sense of social support that he may desperately need. While it might seem like an addicted parent would impact a child more than an older teen or young adult, family substance abuse issues can affect people of all ages. Let your friend know that you are there for him, and won't judge him by his parent's problems. The issues that come along with substance abuse are often more serious than an untrained professional can handle. Suggest seeing a family therapist or give your friend information on support groups, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon Family Groups.

2 Abuse Issues

Whether your friend is suffering from abuse at the hand of a family member, or she is witness to one parent abusing the other, finding her the help that she needs is crucial to her mental health and overall well-being. Unless you're also a licensed professional or psych expert, step one should include getting your friend help from someone who has real experience in this area. You can find help from a hotline such as Childhelp USA or -- if your friend is a young adult -- look for a support group such as Help for Adult Victims of Child Abuse. It's common for victims of abuse to have trust issues, according to the article "Abuse" on the TeensHealth website. If your friend doesn't trust you -- or the expert that you recommend -- you'll need to reassure her that you are on her side and will do what it takes to get her help.

3 Getting General

Sometimes a friend may not have serious issues going on at home, but instead, general family problems. These may include bickering among family members or a constant stream of conflict. For example, your friend's family may disagree with his choice of girlfriend, which results in arguing and plenty of door slamming. When your friend confides in you that he has this type of problem at home, offer to talk through things with him. Communicate with your friend in a supportive way, showing empathy for his situation -- no matter how trivial it may seem to you.

4 Dealing With Divorce

In 2011, 877,000 couples went through a divorce, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you have a friend whose parents are becoming one of these statistics, you can help her through this tough time. Even though her parents are the ones who are actually going through the divorce, it's likely that she'll also go through a range of negative emotions. Talk to your friend about her feelings. If you've gone through a similar experience, tell her your story or let her know that you understand what she's going through. If your parents are still together, connect your friend with another mutual pal who knows what she's going through or help her to find a support group at school, church or a community organization.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.