Do you remember the first friend you lost? I do. My best friend in grammar school decided I was not popular enough. I was too shy to be considered “cool.” She distanced herself from me so she could become more popular, and I was left with one less friend. And let me tell you, it hurt.
Your child’s friend moves away.
If your child’s friend has moved, remind your child that distance does not necessarily mean the end of a friendship. Encourage the kids to maintain ties by letters, e-mail, or FaceTime. In the age of Zoom and social distancing, long-distance friendships are practically in vogue. Distance can make friendship harder, but if your child has found a really good friend, staying in touch might be worth the extra effort.
Losing a friend to drugs, alcohol, or other dangerous behavior can be hard, especially if your child doesn’t see these behaviors as a problem. “It’s fine, Mom. Jenni drinks but I swear I don’t.” Still, you’ll need to set some ground rules, like requiring adult supervision or driving contracts. But if your mom instincts kick in and you don’t think it’s safe, then you’ll have to be the heavy and forbid them from hanging out. Remind your child that his or her friend might just be in a phase, and maybe the friendship can be renewed in the future.
Your child’s friend moves on.
Friendship is a source of drama for kids. If your child loses a friend because the friend has chosen a more “popular crowd,” be sure to emphasize where your child’s value comes from. Encourage your child to “focus on the friends who like you for who you are, not for what you can do for them.” Sometimes kids just choose to hang out with someone else. If that happens, remind your child that some things are completely outside our control. Tell your child we can’t force someone to be our friend, but we can be a good friend to everyone we meet.
Tell your child we can’t force someone to be our friend, but we can be a good friend to everyone we meet.
Your child’s friend doesn’t share his or her values.
When your child loses a friendship because of faith or values, you might worry that he or she will be angry or bitter toward you. After all, Mom, you taught your children that this is the right way, and now it’s cost them a friendship. If your child is upset at you or just sad to have lost a friend, go back to the basics. Talk about why you believe what you do. Tell your children the choices we make in life often cause people to like or not like us, and that’s a really tough part of relationships. Did the friendship end because your child was prideful or rude? Remind him or her that there are right and wrong ways to share our values.
Your child’s friend passes away.
Support your child if he or she wants to attend the funeral or visit the gravesite, but there’s work beyond that too. Encourage your child to talk about the friend and avoid the temptation to pretend that the child never existed. This also could be a good time to introduce children to ideas like heaven. Death is probably the hardest form of loss, but it also can be temporary since we all hope to be reunited with our friends in heaven.
How have friendships come and gone in your life and how did you deal with it?