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My three-year-old son attends a small, in-home daycare. The other kids in the daycare range from about 1 year to 5.

There is one other boy my son's age, and the two of them are very good friends. My son looks forward to going explicitly to play with the other boy, and when we ask him what he did at daycare on any given day, the answer is invariably a description of how the two of them played together, and what toys they played with.

My son frequently tells us that the other boy is his best friend, and the two of them apparently tell each other that throughout the day on a regular basis.

Unfortunately... we recently found out that the other boy will be leaving daycare next week.

We've made attempts to arrange for the two of them to get together outside of daycare in the past, and the boy's mother (a single mother who is apparently having a hard time right now) has been generally unresponsive. It seems unlikely that we'd be able to maintain any sort of contact once he leaves daycare.

My son isn't yet aware that the other boy will be leaving, but when he does, I know my son will be very upset.

What can I do to help him through this? Is there anything I should/can do to prepare him? Should I tell him ahead of time, or wait until the other boy's last day?

Apparently the other boy is currently on a trip, and will return some time early next week, but then Friday is his last day. They'll only have 3-4 days together before the other boy is gone for good.

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Please tell us how you get on with this, cheers –  user4784 Oct 7 '13 at 17:58

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

For your son:

Firstly I would enquire with the daycare and ask if they are having a little farewell for the little boy, or, if at least, they will announce that it is his last day.

I would certainly mention it to your son before Friday, at least a couple of days before, but not too long, as it might just give him time to become anxious. (I'm assuming you are meaning Friday of next week, it's 11.30 pm Thurs night here, so I am not sure which Fri you are referring to.)

In the time that your son knows about the other boy leaving, you can use this time to make a card and a homemade present for his friend. I have found this to be therapeutic when my children are dealing with a loss of this kind.

If the daycare allows it, you could also buy some lollies aka candy for Friday to farewell his friend. Include your son in all these arrangements and it will help him feel a little control over the separation, as well as turning it into something that is a bit of fun.

I would tell your son that sometimes people have to go to a different daycare, but you might see each other again. Or something to that effect, so that it doesn't have a finality about it, but also doesn't offer false promises of having plays outside daycare. Afterall, this is the truth, as it is surprising how often we can cross paths with people over a lifetime.

Hope this helps.


For you:

I have always been pleased that my children form attachments to friends, but it is heartbreaking to see them missing someone they are close to.

I would look at this positively, that your son has formed such a nice attachment.

Also, from your view point (only, and not your sons) you can think that this is an opportunity to help your son develop emotional skills to cope with this type of loss.

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We did tell him ahead of time (two days before the departure date, once we knew the boy was coming back, and not leaving earlier than planned). Given how well he took it, I'm not certain he totally grokked it, but he was excited about bringing cupcakes. We also got him a card, and told him we'd put our phone number on it so his friend could call him. We were very surprised (and extremely proud!) when my son spontaneously asked if he could give one of his toys to the other boy as a present. –  Beofett Oct 15 '13 at 18:22
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The transition went well, and while my son still mentions the other boy frequently, and says he misses him, he doesn't seem sad when he says this. We also have made further overtures to the mother, and she seems receptive to having some play dates (although I'm not certain if they'll actually happen or not). –  Beofett Oct 15 '13 at 18:23
    
@beo that's good news, it creates a happy picture. I know people, myself included, use the phrase that children can be cruel sometimes, but they can also be really thoughtful and kind. –  user4784 Oct 15 '13 at 19:25

I would suggest to tell him in advance, and then just remind him the day before the other kid is actually leaving. In my experience, drawing something nice for the other kid, or drawing a cartoon on where he's going helps.

I did some cartooning when we were moving, and my kids loved it. They wanted to see the adventure, and sometimes, they wanted to see the part where they'd be sad, and sometimes the part where they'd make new friends and remember their old friends.

And maybe, after the other kid has gone, it would be good to not ask about it directly, as it may remind him. He'll tell you when he's sad and then you can talk about it or look together the drawings again.

Best of luck

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You should definitely tell your son before the last day. Probably the morning on the first day you know they will meet, in good time before you leave home. Talk to him about it, and encourage him to talk to his friend about it. It is surprising how well kids are able to handle such things in their own way, if they just have some time to process it. The 3 days may well be just enough for this to go well.

Also remind him each day, and ask him how things are going on. Be specific in your questions to get answers regarding the issue, and not "everything else". If he seems to cope well, and has realized the fact, then leave it. Either way, don't stress it.

Also ask the personnel in the daycare to keep extra attention to how and if they are talking about it (without too much interference).

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+1 Good idea to ask the staff to look after things. They should already know that these two are best friends and I feel they should be able to support them in coping. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Oct 4 '13 at 11:08

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