The problem:  The adult child of a close friend has been confiding in me about issues the child has with my friend. Is it fair to tell the mother about these conversations? Should I offer advice to the young adult and stop there? Facilitate a discussion with both of them?

Low road: I appreciate how uncomfortable this situation likely is, especially because you feel loyal to your friend. But sharing her child’s concerns (no matter the child’s age) betrays the child’s precious trust.

High road: How lucky this young person is to have you as a confidante as he or she endeavors the bumpy work of growing up.

Assuming that he or she is physically and emotionally safe and the complaints fall into the normal range of youthful grievances against one’s parents, your role is to listen carefully and acknowledge feelings without judging. If it feels right, you also might share some traits you genuinely admire in Mom, to help this young person begin to see a more fully formed person.

While I wouldn’t advise you to facilitate a discussion between the two, you could encourage your young friend to invite Mom to a session or two with a professional therapist for the positive purpose of strengthening their adult relationship.

No matter what, let this young person know that you remain available as a loving, and confidential, sounding board.

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