By April Tisher
Gainesville is known as a transient town. The University of Florida attracts some of the best people in the world for education and jobs. This also means that once those people graduate, finish their residency or change jobs, they move. We have experienced firsthand having great families who have become some of our best friends move away, taking their children and our children’s best friends with them. Growing up on the same street with the same friends and neighbors for 22 years, I was ill prepared for this scenario.
The day they left town, my youngest son hid in the car so nobody would see his tears. I bawled like a baby because my daily confidant was leaving and my husband literally didn’t know what to do with himself with his buddy and our neighbors gone. This was a family we saw every day and shared meals with on a weekly basis. Our children roamed freely between our homes, and we even vacationed together. Now they were moving across the country for a new job. I knew I needed a plan to deal with this, not only for myself and the friend I was losing, but also for my children who truly didn’t understand why they had to go.
Before the move, be sure to make a plan for how you will stay connected. With all the technology we have today, it is easier than ever to remain connected to people that don’t live near you. Schedule regular phone or FaceTime/Skype calls, and if your children are older then they can follow each other on social media to keep up. Our boys can even play each other in video games with the help of Xbox Live. Old-fashioned letter writing never goes out of style along with email and text. If feasible, set a specific date and make a plan for when you will see each other again. Then you can make a countdown calendar for the kids to follow.
Have a going away party, make a memory book or create some other personalized gift. Having a project to work on for the leaving friends will help keep you and your child focused on something positive instead of dwelling on the impending loss.
This may sound harsh, but get your child involved in new activities now and make plans with other friends, too. It will be hard to resist letting them spend every last minute with their best buddies, but it is important to show your child that they do have other friends and other interests to which they can look forward.
Allow your children to talk about their feelings and to express sadness about their friends leaving. Acknowledge that there will be changes to their normal life and that it is OK to be sad and even fearful of what that will be like. The way their day looks now may not be the same when their friend leaves town, and it is OK to talk about what they will do differently. If they ride to school with their friend every morning and go to football practice together twice a week, that is a significant change in routine that should be worked out ahead of time.
It’s never easy to say goodbye to good friends, but it can be done in a way that fosters lifelong friendships, even from across the country!