Helping Your Child Cope With the Loss of a Friend

Losing a friend is one of the hardest situations that can occur during childhood or adolescence. For this reason, we'll share some tips to help your child through this process.
Helping Your Child Cope With the Loss of a Friend

Last update: 25 June, 2021

All parents dread the moment when their children reach adolescence and have to face their first breakup. However, we often don’t realize that it’s possible for children to go through a mourning process long before puberty for various reasons. A move, a change of school, the death of a pet, or the loss of a friend are some examples.

In short, any circumstances that generate the absence of something important or dear to the child can provoke a mourning process, given that such a valuable loss has to be assimilated. When a friendship is no longer present in our child’s life, they face a hard situation at an emotional level. Therefore, as parents, we must be ready to accompany, support, and guide them through this painful journey.

What does it mean for a child to lose a friend?

There are many reasons why your child may have to face the loss of a friend. During childhood, it’s most likely to occur due to family decisions made by parents, such as a change of residence.

Mother talking to her daughter to help her cope with the loss of a friend.

As they get older, they may go their separate ways, especially in the transitional school years. For instance, the transition from kindergarten, and junior high to high school. On many occasions, the centers chosen for continuing education are different and children stop seeing each other.

Moreover, at any age, it’s also possible for the friendship to end by the decision of one of the two children. They may fight, argue or one of them may establish another type of friendship, leaving aside the one who was once their best friend.

In any of these cases, for a child or a young person to lose a friend isn’t a minor event. This situation involves much more than we may think at first:

  • They lose the one who accompanied them in their day-to-day life and made their stay at school more pleasant. When the friendship disappears, they can feel very lonely, confused, and disoriented at school.
  • They suddenly find themselves without their accomplice, without the person to whom they could confide their secrets, fears, and desires. Especially in the case of teenagers, losing a friend can make them feel misunderstood. At this age, there’s a natural distancing from parents in favor of friendships.
  • They face hard emotions such as disappointment, betrayal, mistrust, or guilt without yet having sufficient resources to manage them due to their young age.
Father talking to his daughter about how to cope with the loss of a friend.

How do you help your child cope with the loss of a friend?

  • Validate their emotions. As adults, we can make the mistake of minimizing our children’s loss and undervaluing their emotions. Avoid phrases such as, “It’s not that big of a deal!” Because it is. In their limited world, the absence of a friendship is a hard emotional setback.
  • Help them understand and express their feelings. It can be difficult for children to identify their emotions, to understand why they arise and to share them, to express them. But this is an essential task in order to overcome grief. So, explain to them that it’s normal to feel sadness, anger, or confusion and show your availability to listen to them.
  • Teach them how to handle frustration. In most cases, the loss of a friendship will be caused by a decision beyond your child’s control. This can create a great sense of anger and helplessness. So, teach your child to manage frustration by working on their psychological flexibility and ability to adapt to change.
  • Try to prevent your child from falling into guilt or resentment. When faced with the loss of a friendship, it’s normal for children to direct anger against themselves or against the friend. They’ll also look for someone to blame for the situation. However, both options are emotionally very damaging. Therefore, it’s preferable that you help your child understand that sometimes people’s paths diverge and that this is normal in life.

To help your child cope with the loss of a friend

If your child is going through this difficult situation, they need your presence, comfort, and guidance. The way you teach them to cope with adversity can make all the difference. So, don’t hesitate to apply these tips.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.