Is your child’s best friend moving away? 12 tips for coping

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My eight-year-old daughters best friend is moving to another country. Though the move is still a few months away, she is devastated. I can tell she is trying to make sense of the impending loss and is working things out in her mind.

“When Emilie goes, who will be with me at play time?”

“What about Josie?”

“She doesn’t like to do the things I do. She always wants to play tag and talk about Go-Gos. Emilie like to make up plays, just like me.”

My daughter has a point. At any age, it’s hard when special friends move on. Though you can keep in touch, it changes the day-to-day routine. Something is missing. In a best friend’s case — a big chunk.

I’ve had a read of the Internet, and here’s a summary of the best suggestions:

  1. There is conflicting advice on what to do about younger children (under age 7). Some say you should delay telling them until very close to the move. They will just worry incessantly about it, and not really understand. Others say you should tell them well in advance, so they can prepare.
  2. For older children (8 and above) it’s best to tell them as soon as you can. Let them have time to get used to the idea.
  3. Have your child be involved in planning a going away party for their friend.
  4. Show your child on a map where their friend is moving and look it up on the Internet so they can learn more about it. It can be exciting to learn about new places.
  5. Have your child make a special gift for their friend. It could be a photo album, drawings of them together, a story. Frame it and give it to them before they leave. When we moved back to the UK a few years ago, a friend did this for us. We still bring it out, look at it and remember them!
  6. Make a photo album for your child to keep. Or get a Flip and video the two together doing some of their favourite activities.
  7. Be as positive as you can. Point out that they can keep in touch via email, Skype and even be pen pals!
  8. Make sure you discuss with the parents ways the two can keep in touch.
  9. Read them one of the books about friends moving. Often hearing their feelings in a story format can help them understand. At least feel a little better.
  10. Put your child in situations where they can make new friends. Make an effort to have a playdates with other classmates. Sign them up for a new activity.
  11. Talk about how your child feels about the move. It’s OK to be sad. If they can’t articulate what they feel — help them. “You’re going to miss Emilie, aren’t you?” “It’s very sad she is leaving, isn’t it?” “There will never be another Emilie, but you will make other friends.”
  12. Give them space to deal with it. Dealing with loss is a life lesson.

Of course I am sad too! I’m good friends with Emilie’s mother and will miss her. I wonder if she would think it was weird if I made her a scrapbook?

Photo credit

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  1. Angie
    25/04/2014 / 03:06

    My 9 year old’s first best friend is moving. After reading your post. This has helped me as a mom to help my child. Her friend is Emily:) I’ve explained Emily is only moving a couple hours drive from us. I told her we could visit over the summer. It’s hard to watch your child cry over a heart break of a move and a loss. She has expressed school will not be the same. She has cried tonight. I told her that is normal. I explained we have face time and Skype. God will always watch over both of them. Thank you again for sharing:)

  2. Lindsay McLoughlin
    26/10/2013 / 19:00

    What a really helpful blog post. Since reception, my middle daughter’s class has had a lot of this sort of turbulence. Several children have moved abroad. Whilst we try to keep in touch via Skype, the time differences make it tricky! Your tips, along with the many comments and experiences above, are really helpful. Thank you.

  3. 18/10/2013 / 14:21

    It is rather sad isn’t it? The other day I was talking to my step daughter saying that her Daddy (my husband) is my best friend. She then burst into tears and said she missed a best friend of hers who moved to America over a year ago. No one kept any contact details (before I was on the scene). I suggested she asked another friend of hers for the contact details, and I gave lots of hugs and reminded her of all her friends she still has here. It was really sad though…I wish I could have been there and suggested the things above! Great blog! x

  4. T.H.
    31/05/2013 / 01:31

    On this topic, there’s a children’s book entitled “SEEKING MARLO” that deals with the issue of a BEST FRIEND moving away.
    It follows the story of a young boy who is down in the dumps because his friend moved, but through a wild journey, he overcomes the loss and learns to move on with his life.
    My kids enjoyed the story and it’s fun for adults too.
    I found it here:
    I’m pretty sure it’s also on Amazon too.

  5. Nathan
    10/01/2012 / 22:30

    Hi Sally, how did this go. I’m going through the exact same thing with my 5.5 year old son and 4 year old daughter. Their best friends literally since they were born are a boy and girl w/in a few months of their ages 3 houses down are moving about 10 hours away to another state. The kids know it’s coming but don’t seem to understand that they won’t be able to just run down the street and knock on their door anymore…or vice versa…and I know they will ask to do it the day after they leave town. My wife and I are also best friends with the parents and are really sad about losing them as well and we don’t feel prepared emotionally to not show our sadness to our son and daughter. Our street will never be the same again and I’d definitely appreciate any words of wisdom garnered from your experience with this. Thanks so much and hope your son is doing well.

  6. natalie nicole
    02/12/2011 / 01:20

    I’m from California and i’ve lived in Virginia for 15 years (i’m 16) and my best friend in the whole world just moved out to Cali last year. Let me just state that it doesn’t matter how old you are, it SUCKS no matter what. Skype works, and the first few may feel weird but after you get used to having that be the most face to face interaction you get it gets more natural feeling. Within the year he has come out once and I’ve flown out twice. I recently (thanksgiving break) flew out to go see him and saying goodbye doesn’t get much easier. I still cry every we say goodbye. Every. Single. Time. I still cry myself to sleep some nights when i really feel lonely. I can truly say from the “child’s” perspective it’s really hard, especially when you’ve had the rough day and all you want to do is be near someone that you can tell it all to. Luckily he is flying out over X-mas for a week and a half. Exchanging a little personal item is nice, especially because it makes you feel close to that person when you are sad, or lonely. And taking pictures on the trips to visit are a must. If anything it’s proof that even though you live far apart, you still are best friends and you still have lots of fun together. Best of luck to you and your best friends<3

  7. 13/04/2011 / 09:05

    magnificent put up, rather beneficial. I wonder why the other professionals of this sector will not recognize this. You must proceed your writing. I’m sure, you’ve an enormous readers’ base previously!

  8. Sally
    10/05/2010 / 16:58

    I am feeling these same pains with my 6 year old. His 2 best friends are moving 2 hours away. He is devastated- crying to sleep each night. I cry when I think of it too. They live down the street and are in his class. There really isn’t anyone else that has EVER made my son so happy and on a daily basis. These are great kids and get along so well. The boys are inseparable and I feel like I am losing 2 sons too. I just don’t think life is going to be the same. Setting up even 1x week playdates seems unrealistic, but these kids were with him all the time!! How do we cope?

  9. Bety
    27/01/2010 / 10:59

    My five-year-old daughters best friend is moving to another country and realize that we only have friends from other countries. We’re not able to make German friends. My charm does not work with Germans.
    I am terrible devastated we had already plan to visit them in our dreams but her country is so far away…I had in my mind 7 months more to cope and make new friends but I just learn yesterday they leave in 6 weeks, I have cry last night to sleep. At five the teachers told me they have an exceptional attachment that other children at her age dont have.
    Alexandra is very much exclusive with her friend and she is going to miss her so much I dont know to cope myself.

  10. A Modern Mother
    07/12/2009 / 13:56

    Iota — I know…
    Insomniac & Hannah — scrapbook, yes!

  11. 07/12/2009 / 12:36

    I’m sorry to hear your daughter’s friend is moving away. It’s great that you’re doing everything you can to cushion the sense of loss she might feel.
    I think the scrapbook idea is lovely – it would be a nice thing for your daughter to have too (even if you decide not to give one to the friend’s family) – so she can look back on her time together with her friend.

  12. Insomniac Mummy
    07/12/2009 / 11:59

    I really feel for your daughter. I think when you’re young and your world is still so small (yet those few things you ‘know’ seem so inexplicably huge) the thought of a friend leaving is very hard to accept.
    We moved when I was about 7 and I felt like I was losing a limb leaving my best friend who lived a few doors down. Of course there was a grieving process but soon enough I had new friends, so did she and our friendship gradually fizzled out.
    I think your scrapbook idea is lovely and I’m sure they’ll both appreciate it.

  13. 07/12/2009 / 07:47

    It’s not easy for kids to part with their best friends and it gets worse as you get older. I try to prepare my three year old by talking about the fact that his best friend will be leaving soon and that its now time to get used to being without her and that he needs to have fun making new friends who are very different and fun to be with. It’s worked most times.

  14. 06/12/2009 / 18:54

    Pen pals us a great idea, and with all our new technology so much easier. I remained friends for a long time as pen pals with a friend who moved at about that age. It must be tough to see your kids go through thus, friends are so very important to them

  15. Iota
    05/12/2009 / 01:47

    Thanks for those tips.
    How we wish we could shield our kids from these things, but they are part of life so often.

  16. 04/12/2009 / 21:06

    My parents invented the art of moving. I have been to three different primary schools and six different secondary school thanks to the gipsy like lifestyle of my family. It’s awful. And it needs a lot of support from the respective parents to keep friendships alive.
    A scrapbook is a great idea, I think!

  17. A Modern Mother
    04/12/2009 / 11:23

    Mwa — and were you OK?
    April — I think we will make a scrapbook…
    Pippa — I guess some friends are for the moment and some for life…

  18. 04/12/2009 / 07:42

    We moved when I was seven, not to another country although it felt like it to me! I had two friends who I remember I use to play with, but we didn’t keep in touch my sister on the other hand kept in touch with one of her friends for a few years as our parents were friends (that is so another story!) so I think that will help!

  19. April Mitchell
    04/12/2009 / 03:51

    This was a great post! I remember friends moving as a child or me moving away from friends. It is so hard. These are great suggestions. My Best Friend from 3rd grade made me a little photo album of the two of us and gave it to me as a gift when we moved half a country away. I treasure it still today.

  20. 03/12/2009 / 23:38

    It’s really hard when that happens. I moved away from my country at fourteen, and I remember my best friend threw up all night.

  21. A Modern Mother
    03/12/2009 / 19:07

    Nappy — how sweet!

  22. TooManyHats
    03/12/2009 / 18:21

    Thank goodness for the internet. It makes keeping in touch so much easier and you can even see each other.

  23. nappyvalleygirl
    03/12/2009 / 16:25

    We moved back from Hong Kong to the UK when I was 8. (We were back 9 months later, but no-one anticipated that at the time!). I do remember it being hard to leave my friends. One nice thing I remember was that they all signed an autograph book for me so I had little samples of their writing and little comments – in fact I still have that book today.

  24. A Modern Mother
    03/12/2009 / 14:13

    Rosie — I think we will, thanks
    Dawn — I’ll check it out, thanks
    Heather — I think she would too 😉

  25. 03/12/2009 / 14:04

    that’s rough, at any age. And I bet Emily’s mum would be thrilled with a scarp nook, who wouldn’t want to know how much people care abou them?

  26. 03/12/2009 / 14:02

    Lauren Child covered this in ‘Clarice Bean – Don’t Look Now’. Not sure it’ll help, but it’s a good read – my 6-year-old loves it! Dx

  27. 03/12/2009 / 13:59

    That’s a difficult one. I think you and your daughter should make a scrapbook together. That might help you both. It’s a huge loss for your daughter and I do envy the position you are in. It will feel like the end of the world to her right now but in the internet age it is much easier to keep in touch. I was tweeting this morning with a blogger in Australia. It’s not quite the same. Maybe I’m clutching at straws here.

  28. A Modern Mother
    03/12/2009 / 10:44

    MrsW — it’s tough on both sides, going to a new school is scary
    Home office — it will be fine, I know, just hard to see her go through it
    Liz & Stig — all the social media stuff does much it better than when I was small…
    Jen — I tend to hand out with transients (must be something in that) so it happens often… good luck this summer

  29. 03/12/2009 / 10:11

    I am going to have to deal with this – my son’s best friend since they day they started in Reception has been a German boy. Originally they were only meant to be here for one year, so we prepared our son for that, then their contract was extended to 18 months and then to 2 years, but that is definitely it. So my son knows his friend will move back next summer. We’re concentrating on the good: “isn’t it great you have had L for this long?” and “weren’t you lucky to have a joint birthday party this year, turning 6 will always be special” but also encouraging him to take part in clubs and so on that his friend doesn’t do, so that he is at least socialising with other children even if not finding a new best friend. Like you, I will be sorry to see my new friend, L’s mum, go back home, I’m liking the scrapbook idea!
    When I was 6 we moved, I don’t remember the kids I went to school for that first year. When I was 9 we moved again, and I did keep up with my best friend from then well into adulthood but that was helped by only being 90 mins apart so our families did visit each other. Not an option when a new country is involved!

  30. 03/12/2009 / 10:11

    Oh I feel for your daughter! When I was 8 my best school friend moved to Scotland, then my best friend down the street moved, then it was my turn to move, twice, torn away from my friends who maybe I had only known and played with for two years and wanted to play with forever! Maybe all this is what taught me to write! I am also a massive hanger on (in my heart) of people I’ve loved and thanks to Facebook, it’s easier than ever to keep the links open! Life is also lovely in that it introduces you to new people all the time!

  31. 03/12/2009 / 09:44

    Oh that’s so sad, one of my friends moved to Canada when we were 9 and I was heartbroken, and in those days it was a case of 2 letters and then all contact lost. So maybe they can swap emails and Skype that will make it easier for her or maybe that is prolonging the loss – it’s so hard to know what to do?
    I think a scrapbook is a really nice idea and I think her Mum will appreciate it.

  32. 03/12/2009 / 09:16

    What a hard thing, I was lucky and only lost one friend at an early age, but then I am not in contact with any of the people I went to school with. I grew up and moved away!!!

  33. 03/12/2009 / 09:06

    good useful post. Your poor daughter. It’s not fun. I remember moving several times as a child but only once really having a best friend that I had to leave behind. She made me a lovely card with pictures and we wrote to each other. It was ok. Kids are pretty resilient

  34. MrsW
    03/12/2009 / 08:45

    I was the one who did all the moving away when I was a child and it was always the friend I left behind who stopped writing first. I think they found it easier to move onto new best friends in a familiar environment with familiar faces, whereas I clung onto the past that wee bit longer, being in a new (and scary) school. If it’s any consolation!

  35. A Modern Mother
    03/12/2009 / 07:29

    Liz — four times! That would give me a complex! Glad it worked out though and thanks for the nice thought…

  36. 03/12/2009 / 07:19

    Oh I do feel for your daughter, and I wish there was a way of telling her that as time goes on she’ll make even better friends. This actually happened to my sister when she was growing up, not once but four times! Each time she was devastated, but she did make New Best Friends each time. By the time she was 13 (when the last one moved away) she had a solid group of friends who have remained her friends to this day. Being pen pals is a wonderful idea – I can remember having pen pals in the US when I was very small and it was so exciting to receive letters, stickers and so on from another country.

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