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Buddy Breakups

Nine-year-old Taylor Ritter of Wappingers Falls, NY, played happily with a pair of brothers from his neighborhood every day last summer. "That is, until he decided that the boys weren't as exciting as a new kid on our block," says his mom, Gina. "He just replaced the brothers with this new boy."

But three weeks later, Taylor found himself on the other side of things when the new kid started avoiding him for no reason he could figure out.

Friendships are really important to kids at this age, so why are they sometimes so indifferent to one another's feelings?

They're not thinking through the consequences very well, says Kenneth Rubin, Ph.D., author of The Friendship Factor. When they meet someone they think they like better -- or is more popular -- they tend not to do things halfway. They'll jump ship and throw themselves into the new friendship.

Here's what to do if your child gets dumped by a pal:

Be sympathetic. This is a big deal to her, so don't minimize or dismiss what she's feeling. Let her know you're there to listen, and even share a story from your own past.

Don't badmouth the other kid. It's tempting, but try to stay above the fray and let the kids work it out. (For one thing, it'll be awkward if your child ends up friends with her again.)

Go over what happened. Some-times kids don't realize that they may have played a role in the demise of a friendship. Ask if they had a fight or if the friend seemed angry recently.

Talk up friendship. A true friend doesn't just abandon someone for the sake of being thought of as "cooler." Remind your child of this and encourage her to shift her focus to more loyal pals.

When your child's at fault

Chances are, your child will be the one to drop a buddy at some point. You can't force her to be friends with someone, but you can:
* Let her know you're not very happy with the way she handled things.
* Ask her how she would feel if she were treated that way.
* Point out that kids won't want to be friends with someone who's untrustworthy.
* Remind your child that you still expect her to be nice to everybody.