Sunday, January 15, 2012

Helping your Child cope when a Best Friend Moves Away

For the last 18 years, I have been a teacher at New Gate School.  NGS is a private school so over the years I have seen many families move on to other places, other schools, other adventures.  It is challenging for everyone.  Here are a few tips for dealing with this type of transition.

  • I have found that before summer vacation and before someone leaves our class, students begin to pick fights with one another.  I believe this is a coping mechanism so that the actual departure will not be so painful.  Realize this may happen.
  • Busy children (and adults) have less time to worry about upcoming events and they stay more present in the moment.  Involve your child in activities.  Perhaps start your child in a new venture; guitar lessons, cooking workshops, sports teams, etc.
  • Have your child make a special memento to give to the one who is moving.  Scrapbooks, photo albums, friendship bracelets, or just a simple heartfelt card.  It is important that your child be involved in the planning and creation of this special gift.
  • Know that your child may grieve.  Grieving is messy and can look different for different children.  Acknowledge your child's feelings, echo what he or she says, and listen to what is said.  It may be hard for a young child to articulate his or her feelings.  Help them by saying things such as, "I will miss _______'s parents too."  "I am sad they are moving away."
  • Set up a play date with the child who is moving.  Encourage the children to have a great time so they feel their friendship will last even if they don't see each other every day.
  • Set up playdates with other classmates too.  Your child needs to know there are other friends who will still be around.
  • Encourage your child to make a journal about his or her feelings.  These days you can journal on the computer or even make a video diary.

Children thrive when they have a routine, so keep your routine going.  Love and trust your child.  Children are very resilient.  Keep the lines of communication open.  Let your child's teacher know how they are dealing with the change.  Teachers are there to help and often have good insights into your child's feelings.

Remember it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.  Having a friend who moves away is better than never having a friend at all.
You will know what to do and how to help your child, trust your instincts and remember that it may take time before your child is ready to move on.

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