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Left Behind – When Best Friends Move Away

by Lori Sciame | January 31st, 2011 | Elementary

“I miss Jordan already,” my 13-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, lamented. The day before, her friend’s family packed up and moved 1,000 miles away. Her tears began to flow, and she sputtered, “Who will be my best friend now?”

Loss. That’s what a child who is left behind experiences; therefore, it is natural to go through a grieving period. Sudden outbursts of tears are typical of girls, but boys may cry as well. This happens because they feel sad that their friend can no longer share daily events. He or she may also wrestle with feelings of anger as they have been “abandoned.”

There are a lot of resources available to help the child who relocates, but what about the child who is left behind? His or her life changes in many ways, from not having a confidant to share secrets with, to not having someone to sit by in the school lunch room.

Thank goodness there are ways a parent can help a child experiencing this situation.

One way is to preserve the memory of the friendship. You can do this by urging your child to prepare a scrapbook. Your child can either keep it or mail it to the friend who has left. Pictures, ticket stubs, favorite sayings… even stickers can be placed in the book. This not only helps the child to relive the good times, but it can also serve as a permanent memorial to the friendship. Everyone likes to be remembered. A scrapbook makes sure this happens.

Another way to help a child cope is by sharing stories of your own losses. Most, if not all of us, have had a close friend move away. Describe how you felt at that time and share the fact that you did recover. Your son or daughter will be relieved that you went through something similar – and survived!

A third way to ease the transition revolves around explaining that developing new friendships takes time. Let him or her know that true friendships will take time to grow. It may take a few months to find a new “best friend,” but eventually he or she will find a special relationship again. In my daughter’s case, it took four months to find a new “bestie.”

Finally, the best thing you can do for your child at this difficult time is be there for him or her. After Elizabeth’s best friend moved away, I devoted a lot of extra time to her. I listened patiently as she vented about missing her best friend, as she shared her fears of being without her favorite person at school, and as she tested the waters with new friends. I will admit; it was intense for a few months, but the crisis passed.

Sometimes, however, children can become depressed when they experience this type of loss. If a child can’t rebound when a friend moves away, seek out advice from a school counselor or from a local counseling agency. Look for signs of depression such as loss of interest in grooming, lethargy, and/or prolonged bouts of crying. Be aware. Even the most resilient children may need professional assistance.

I must admit; I miss Jordan too. She is a wonderful girl. But circumstances changed, and both Elizabeth and Jordan must move on in order to become the young women they are meant to be. I know they will always be friends, but they need to have best friends close to home. In the end, it helps to be positive, for when we extend the hand of friendship, there is always someone who reaches back!

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