They need your love and support, not your passive-aggressive judgement.
Your friend's child is in treatment. Perhaps for psychological treatment or in rehab for some form of addiction.
It's a touchy subject. You wonder if you should mention it, but don't know what to say or how to bring it up without prying or offending. How your friend responds often depends on the nature of your friendship, but when the time comes to talk about it, here are 5 things to NEVER say:
1. "You must feel like such a failure. I can't imagine."
Ouch. Please don't say that. I'm not sure what people are thinking when they say toss this callous comment out. You might think it's an attempt to express empathy, identify with how the other person feels, or trying to relate. It's not.
Regardless of what you mean, what your friend hears is, "I think you failed as a parent and I can't really relate to that." If your friend didn't feel like a failure before, you have just planted the seed that perhaps she should. Believe me, saying this will definitely not help.
2. "I bet you wish you could do it over again."
Ugh. This will leave your friend wondering if you think she did something wrong in the past, which caused her child to go to treatment. The underlying implication here is that the fault lies with her, and that if she had a do-over, she could undo what she did wrong.
Certainly, parents of kids in treatment have enough guilt without a friend inadvertently substantiating that she should just feel that way.
3. "Don't worry, things will be back to normal in no time."
Honestly, things probably won't. If someone is in treatment there really isn't a quick fix, and your friend and her family will likely feel the impact for quite some time. Saying this will show your friend that you either don't understand how severe the problem is, or you just don't get it.
Neither are helpful.
4. "You think you've got it bad? Wait until you hear this!"
Finding a bigger or worse horror story so that your friend won't feel so bad about her own problems will only serve to invalidate how she feels.
Your friend will need to talk to you or someone else about her own situation without being one-upped by someone else's supposedly worse problems.
5. "At least she/he didn't overdose or attempt suicide."
First of all, are you sure he or she didn't? Understand that you may not know the whole story. Assume nothing.
Also, you're annoying your friend by telling her to look on the bright side of a difficult situation. Until she is ready to do that on her own, you need to allow your friend to feel however she feels, without implying it could be worse.
Now that you know what NOT to say, when trying to figure out the tactful way to show your support, think about what you'd want friends to say to you if you had a child in treatment.