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When Your Kid's Friend Moves Away

After 4-year-old Natalie Dayton's best friend, Jake, moved, "she'd cry whenever we went to the park where they'd played," says her mother, Jennifer, of Levittown, PA. "Months later, she still asked for him." It's hard for 3- to 5-year-olds to grasp the concept of moving, says Karen DeBord, Ph.D., professor of child development at North Carolina State University. She offers advice on how you can ease the transition:

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

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

  • Don't console too quickly The news may barely faze her. If it does, be positive: "Send a letter -- you'll get one back!"

  • Make some memories Put together a scrapbook, tape, or video of your child and her friend, remembering to make a copy for the pal, too. A memento like this means more to young kids than a call would.