Losing friends can be difficult at any age. For children, it may be the first time they've experienced a sense of loss. Your child's reaction will be different depending on the circumstances surrounding the loss. Some friends move away, while others drift apart due to shifts in social circles. Parents play a crucial role in guiding children through a process of grief, but also to a point of recovery and healing.
It is important for a parent to let his or her child know that it's OK to feel sad. Some parents may be tempted to gloss over a child's feelings and push him or her to move on. While sadness should not dominate the child's existence, it is appropriate to talk through what the child is feeling at that moment.
Focusing on other relationships
One tool that can be used to help a child cope with loss is emphasizing current friendships. Arranging activities with other friends may help the child focus on positive, rather than negative feelings. While it may not be practical to fill every day with play dates and outings, the promise of fun, future events may help mitigate sadness and loss.
There are situations where losing a friend does not have to be final and permanent. For example, if a friend moves away, the relationship may shift to letter writing. Or, parents can help children set up emails, phone calls and sessions on Skype. These types of connections will not be the same, but they may allow the relationship to transition into a new phase.
Ultimately, the goal is to help your child move on. Allow your child time to grieve, but don't afraid to encourage forward movement toward the next phase by focusing on current relationships or forming new friendships. Some grieving is healthy, but if those feelings last for too long they may become a crutch, and the child won't learn how to cope with challenging situations.
When kids learn how to make friendship bracelets, they master a craft that is a really nice way for friends to express affection for each other.
What is a true friend? Unfortunately, people do not come with a true friend label; you need to be able to spot the characteristics of a good friend.