It can be a traumatic thing for a kid to experience—the moving away of a friend. Young children aren’t well-equipped to understand that situations aren’t necessarily permanent, and it might be hard for your child to accept that their good friend is leaving.
As a parent, your role during this time is to provide a source of steadiness, love, and understanding. Depending on your child’s age and personality, he or she might melt down, act out, or simply be sad and mopey when their friend moves.
Every child is different, and age can have a lot to do with how a kid reacts to a new life situation like this as well.
Here are some basic ideas to think about when you must help a child cope with the moving of a friend.
Most of the time, toddlers take the news of a friend moving pretty well. This might just require you to provide hugs, kisses, and extra playtime for your child. You can also make sure your child has other friends to play with.
Still, this is a good time to start the subject of feelings. You can name what your child appears to be feeling. That helps form the building blocks of emotional intelligence and lets kids know that emotions are normal, even unpleasant ones, and that they always pass.
Preschool and Elementary
This age group often takes the move of a friend harder. That’s because friendships during this time are often based more on shared interests and your child liking and choosing their own friends.
For this group, it’s crucial that you allow the child to process what he or she is feeling. Depending on the kid, that might take little or lots of coaxing from you. You can ask open-ended questions to get your child thinking about and working through hard feelings. Some examples of such questions include:
- How do you feel about your friend moving away?
- How do you think your friend feels about moving? Is there something you can do to help your friend feel better about moving?
- Do you have other friends who will also miss your friend? Can you help each other?
- Do you know where your friend is going and why?
Avoid saying things like, “It will be fine—you have other friends.” While that is most certainly true, it doesn’t validate the child’s feelings about the friend who is moving or allow him or her to process and work through that. It also doesn’t teach good emotional intelligence, which will benefit your child tremendously in the long run. Finally, pushing away the feelings is likely to make the process take longer for your child because those emotions have not been acknowledged and understood, so they will probably keep coming to the surface.
Make sure other adults in your child’s life know what’s going on and are prepared to handle it if your child brings up his or her feelings to them.
Books that deal with the subject of friends moving away can really help kids in this age group. It allows them to see someone their age dealing with and working through the feelings they are experiencing.
If you remember having a similar experience when you were young, share it with your child. Tell him or her how you felt. That helps a child feel normal and secure and allows them to accept and process their own emotions.
Middle and High School Kids
These kids can have an even harder time losing a friend to a move, and they might be more closed off about discussing it with you. Do what you can to keep communication open, using the same technique of open-ended questions described above. But don’t push too hard or your kid might close up even more.
Keep an eye on your child for signs that he or she is having a hard time processing the emotions surrounding the loss of the friend. That can be anything from acting out to closing off and staying in his or her bedroom all day. Try not to be confrontational but stay close and let your child know you empathize with and understand them and are there if they wish to talk.
Be ready to seek help from an outside source, such as another adult your child respects or a therapist if you believe your child is having a lot of trouble dealing with a friend’s move.
If it is your family or child who is moving, you can find some tips here: “How to Help Your Child Adjust to a Move.”