I have some secrets I don’t want to tell my friends. Do I have to tell them?

It’s not a good idea to share everything with your friends. If you’re being pressured to tell something, such as your own thoughts or something personal about yourself or your family, say, “I don’t want to talk about it,” and change the subject. But be honest—have you told your friends that you’re keeping secrets? Have you said things such as, “I know who Ava likes, but it’s a secret”? You can’t blame your friends for wanting to know more when they hear that. If you don’t want to share secrets, then don’t bring them up at all.

All of my friends gossip! I’ve heard them talk about everything other people do. It hurts because I know they gossip about me, too. I need help!

Good for you for trying to stop gossip—it often creates drama and misery for everybody involved. When your friends start gossiping, don’t join in. Say something like “Oh” or “Yeah, anyway” in a bored tone, and then change the subject. You’re probably not the only one upset by gossip, so show your friends how to walk away from drama and make the world a friendlier place. If the gossip gets out of hand or becomes very hurtful, talk to a parent or teacher about it.

I accidentally told my best friend’s most personal secret without thinking. Now she is mad and won’t talk to me. I would do just about anything to be her friend again. How can I do it?

First, take responsibility for your actions. Even though you didn’t mean to hurt your friend, that’s what happened, and you need to make it right. Try to talk to her in person, but if she won’t speak to you, apologize in a letter. Admit that you were wrong to tell her secret, and tell her what you wish you would have done instead. Let her know that you miss her and hope she’ll give you another chance. Give her time—if you apologize sincerely, she may be willing to be friends again.

I have this friend, and when she’s at my house, she is super nice and funny. But the next day, she is really mean to me at school. I try to be nice, but she is still mean!

A good friend doesn’t turn her friendship on and off like a light switch. Tell this girl that you don’t like how she’s treating you. Give her a chance to apologize. But if she doesn’t change, it may be time to see her less and look for friends who are always glad to see you.

A friend told me a secret that she doesn’t want anyone else to know. I really need to talk to my mom about it, but I don’t want to lose my friend’s trust.

Some secrets shouldn’t stay secret. If you think that your friend could be hurt or get into trouble, tell an adult the secret right away. Your friend might forgive you if she knows that you told for the right reason—because you care about her. But if you just want to talk things over with your mom, leave out your friend’s name.

There’s a popular girl at school who likes me, but she’s not a good person. She swears and can be mean to people—including me. There’s so much drama with her. I don’t want to be her friend, but do I have to because of who she is?

It sounds as if you’re afraid of what might happen if you tell her that you don’t want to be friends. You don’t need to say that. Be kind when you’re talking to her, as you would be with anyone. Avoid her mean games, and stand up for others if she’s bullying them. If she sees that others respect you for the way you treat them, maybe she’ll try to be more like you.

I want to invite three girls to a sleepover. They’re all good friends of mine, but they don’t like one another—at all. I want all three to come, but I don’t want any fights. Help!

Planning fun activities such as playing games or watching a movie might help, but you can’t make people get along. Talk to each girl separately. Be honest about who else you’ve invited, and tell each that you’d like everyone to attend and to get along. Promise each girl that you won’t be mad if she decides not to come. Then have fun at your sleepover, no matter how many friends attend.

My friends tell me secrets—but I can’t keep them! I love to have people pay attention to me, and I get so tempted to share secrets that sometimes I do.

Good for you for realizing that this is a problem and that you want to fix it. Since trust is the glue that holds friendships together, you’ve got to zip your lip before you spill a secret that can wreck one of your friendships. When you’re tempted to talk, immediately ask someone a question on a completely different topic—it’ll distract you and get your mind on something other than spilling your friends’ secrets.