Preschool is often where your child makes her first friends, and these attachments can be very intense. So how do you handle your child's sadness when newfound friends move, transfer schools or change classrooms?
That’s the dilemma Circle of Moms member Diana S. is facing. Her daughter's best friend was assigned to a different class next year. To make matters even harder, the best friend has become close with another classmate, and this new duo leaves Diana’s daughter out during free play time.
“It has really been hurting her feelings,” Diana laments.
When you have a forlorn four-year-old on your hands, the loss of your child’s best friend may break your heart as much as theirs. But many Circle of Moms members who have been through this stage point out that many early friendships come and go, and that you shouldn't expect preschool pals to be best friends forever. They also suggest these three tips to help perk-up your preschooler.
1. Don’t Dwell on Lost Friendships
When her son was the only child sent to another class out of his group of five friends, Stacey E. says at first she “was more devastated then he was.” Nevertheless, she suggested her son concentrate on all the new people and exciting things he would encounter in his class. And soon, every day, her son started coming home talking about all the new friends he had. Her actions were right in line with advice shared by many Circle of Moms members: avoid dwelling on the lost love.
Children from preschool through second grade seem to "change their mind like they change their undies,” Stacey says. When you get your child to concentrate on the new friendships, teachers, toys and equipment she gets to use, and the art works she does, “soon she will have forgotten about the friend who has forgotten her.”
Sharon B. helps her daughter to deal with the hurt feelings by explaining that sometimes friends need to play apart with other kids, but it doesn't mean they don't like her anymore. She also encourages her daughter play with others because there are a large number of students at her daughter’s school.
“If she feels excluded by friends who are normally ‘close,’ I tell her to go and play with someone else or even quietly on her own. … I also told my daughter that she will have many friends throughout her life and that's good, too,” Sharon adds.
2. Teach Your Child How to Express Her Feelings
Moms can empower their children to handle peer problems by talking about their feelings and standing up for themselves. Carey K. teaches her children to say, “That hurts my feelings when you leave me out, and friends don't treat each other like that.”
Moms also can ask their child’s friends questions like: Do you see (your child’s name) on the playground? Do you all play together? “See how she responds,” Carey says, noting it’s very possible that the friend doesn’t realize she is hurting your child.
Finally, Angie recommends dropping the “best friend” label because “to children it seems to mean ‘only friend,’ and when the friend's social circle expands, other children are hurt.”
3. Expand Your Child’s Social Circles
Moms who want to be more proactive in helping their preschoolers can set up scenarios in which their children are more likely to forge and maintain friendships. Holly B. suggests inviting new classmates, or even the lost friend, over for a play date. By reconnecting with a former friend, your child will learn an important social skill, and the two may learn to value one another’s friendship more, she explains.
By seeking out opportunities for play time with other preschoolers, hopefully your child will click with someone and eventually have several friends, Cynthia L. says. “It’s common for kids to be close with only one friend growing up, which just sets them up for these scenarios sometimes. So if she can learn to have a group of friends instead, there will always be someone for her.”
Mom Heather U. agrees that having several friendships can help dull the heartache of losing one. When her children seemed to have one favorite friend each, she organized a play date/picnic at the local park and invited all of the children in their classes and their families to join them. “This was a fantastic experience as I got to meet the other parents in a non-formal environment … Not only have my children met new friends in the class, but we as families have made new friends, too,” she says.
4. Teach Your Child How to Make a New Friend
Losing a friend can seem devastating at the preschool age because children are just beginning to expand their social skills. So when a child expresses hurt feelings because of a friend, Sara B., a substitute para-educator, says she helps the child learn how to find someone else to play with.
“We'll look for someone on their own, or I'll ask them who looks like they're having fun. Then we walk over and ask if [we] can join in,” Sara explains. “I've never had kids tell us no. And they continue to play together even after I walk away.”
This tack also works for Angie B.’s daughter. “I found that she thought that if her friend was playing with someone else, she couldn't play with her too. She soon learned that all she had to do was ask if she could play too, and she was included,” Angie says.
5. Give Your Child Room to Grow
Remember, children change a lot as they grow, and what they need in a friend can change over time as well. So try not to get overly involved in their friendships, Angie B. advises. “Somehow children get over things and move on, and we as parents don't. Give [your child] a little advice and then let her figure it out on her own — she probably will.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.