When a friend moves away it can be devastating on a child. When I was growing up, my best friend who lived next door, moved far away. The separation was hard and I always wondered what she was doing. We were able to reconnect 20 years later, but I wonder how things would have been different if our parents had kept us in contact. There are ways to soften the blow of a friend moving away. Here are some ideas:
For younger children, 7 years old and under, the consensus is that it’s better to wait to right before the move to break the news. Then explain that there are changes happening and their friend is moving. For children 8 years old and older the rule of thumb is to present the news ahead of time so the children have more time to prepare themselves, say goodbyes, etc. The key in this presentation is to convey a positive attitude about the change. Focus on the brighter side like their friend may have a bigger house, be closer to other family, or other situations that puts the transition in a positive light.
WAYS TO PREPARE AND COPE:
Get your child involved in activities:
Plan play dates, new activities, clubs, etc, something that is going to help them get involved with other children their age, so they are being active, and not dwelling on their friend being gone. The busier they are, the better they will adjust.
Plan a Play Date:
Whether it’s a final play date with their friend, this will be good, also include other kids, so then your child does not feel alone or sad when the other child has left.
Going Away Parties:
If they are planning a going away party, have your child get involved in helping so they feel like they are a part of this aspect. If there is not one planned, have your child plan a going away party with a couple of friends.
Keep In Touch:
Make sure you figure out with the other parent different ways the kids can still communicate after the move. Whether it is talking on the phone (exchange phone #’s)like skype, chatting on the internet like facebook (if old enough), or www.kidschat.com, or other similar sites, this can make the communication easier. Another option would be to let them be pen pals or write letters. You should also try to figure out with the parent if they are not moving out of the state or country when you could schedule a visit, maybe once a month, or every couple months, so the kids can still see each other. In our internet age, contact is so much easier than it was 20 years ago.
Your child could make a photo album, or scrap book so they have memories of their friend. This is also a good going away present for the other person if the child creates something for the other child to have memories to go away with.
Feelings Count too:
Find out how your child is feeling about the move, open ended questions can get your farther. Let your child know that you are there for them, and allow them a chance to express their emotions. A good icebreaker or way to get them to open up would be doing this over something fun like going out for ice cream, or pizza, or for a walk.
Remember to be positive through the whole process, the more positive you are, the better the outcome will be. Allow your child to be sad if need be, working through emotional periods is good, just be supportive when their friend relocates!