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When a Friend Moves Away

After 4-year-old Natalie Dayton's best friend, Jake, moved away, "she'd cry whenever we went to the park where they used to play together," says her mother, Jennifer, of Levittown, PA. "Months later, she still asked for him."

Three- to 5-year-olds are just beginning to form attachments to peers, says Karen DeBord, Ph.D., associate professor of child development at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. If a friend moves, they miss him, but can't quite grasp where he's gone because they have no concept of distance. To help your child:

• Broaden his social horizons. Enroll him in a music class or sport, or have playdates before and after the move. This will cushion the blow and keep him from relying too much on one pal in the future.

• Skip the long goodbyes. Wait until a week before the move to tell your child that his buddy is leaving.

• Don't console too quickly. The news may barely faze him. But if he is upset, be positive: "Jacob gets to move to a new city!"

• Make a scrapbook or video of your child and his friend (make a copy for the pal, too). A memento means more to young kids than a call does.

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