We found out my 8-year-old’s closest friend is moving away. How can we help her deal with this sad situation?
- A., Rhode Island
Moving away is hard enough, but it’s even more difficult when you’re a child. And it can be even more traumatic when you’re the one left behind.
I moved away as a teenager. I’ll never forget what one of my best friends told me after we said our goodbyes. “You’ll make new friends. But I’ll still be here and no one can take your place.”
What she didn’t know is that no one could take her place either. Thankfully, some friendships, like this one, and others I had formed since I was a toddler, CAN outlast the miles.
Some tips to help make “moving” easier on your child:
· Timing is everything. If your child doesn’t know about her friend moving, think about how you will break the news to her. You may find it easier if you don’t tell her right away. Younger children have a more difficult time dealing with such a loss and telling them too soon may make it even more challenging.
· Communicate. Talk to your child about how it makes her feel to say goodbye to a good friend. She may be experiencing an overwhelming sense of sadness or abandonment. Be open. Be understanding. Be there for her. Remind her that a friendship CAN outlast the miles.
· OK to be sad. Keep in mind that it’s OK for your child to be sad. It’s OK for her to cry. Give her lots of hugs, love and encouragement. Remind her that although she has to say goodbye, she will never forget her special friend.
· Staying in touch. Talk to the parents about the best way for your children to stay in touch. Could they be pen pals? Communicate by email? Skype? FaceTime? With today’s technology, there are many ways to stay in touch. Although pen pals may sound old-fashioned, nothing is more exciting than receiving a hand-written letter in the mailbox from a dear friend.
· Going-away gift. Help your child create a special photo album or scrapbook as a going-away present for their friend. It’s a wonderful way to collect special moments that represent the friendship. They can include photos, crafts, trinkets - anything that represents their bond. When my son’s best friend moved away, we made a video for the family and they gave my son a wonderful photo album. Both gifts are special, and represent fond memories of their friendship.
· Exchange. Encourage your child to exchange something with their friend who is moving away. Exchange special mementos that symbolize their bond. It could be anything, from a friendship bracelet to a toy figurine.
· Contact. Don’t forget to have your child write down their friend’s new address and keep it in a special place. (You need to keep this information handy too.) Phone number, address and email address.
· Journal. Remind your child that she can write down her feelings in a journal or diary. Let her know she can write down anything she is feeling in a diary, and no one will see it. It may help her work through this difficult time.
· Connect with friends. After her friend moves, take the time to connect with your child’s other friends to help make the transition easier. Schedule play dates or host a “sleep-under” party (a party where kids stay for dinner and a movie and leave an hour before bed-time). Help encourage your child by re-kindling bonds they have with other friends. This can also be done before the friend moves.
Jackie Hennessey is a Rhode Island mom who blogs about her take on motherhood at www.ventingsessions.com and writes about it in her award-winning gift book, How to Spread Sanity on a Cracker.