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My daughter, we'll call Beth, had a close friend, we'll call Alice, who was in the same daycare/preschool from ages 6 months through just before 5 years old. Alice lives in the next town over, so once they both finished preschool, they went to different schools in different districts for kindergarten.

Even though it's been two years, Beth still considers Alice her best friend. Beth has made new friends at her school but won't consider anyone else for the position of "best friend" (not that one and only one person has to be assigned that honorific).

Beth has seen Alice a few times per year since then: at Beth's birthday party, at Alice's birthday party (an invitation to which always seems to appear a day or two after Beth's party), and maybe a play date or two. Even when they were in the same school, Alice's parents were never very responsive about setting up playdates.

How can I help my daughter move on from this relationship? Should I? Specifically, should we continue to set up the few visits per year we've managed? Or should we stop setting them up - Out of sight, out of mind?

I've found some advice on the internet about helping a child after their friend moved away. But in this case, Alice didn't move away, she just went to a different school. So it seems to me that the "intermittent feedback" of seeing Alice a few times a year is just reinforcing the relationship Beth may have forgotten about or moved on from otherwise. As far as I know Alice has moved on, but I don't have any confirmation or denial of that from Alice's parents.

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    I'm still friends with a couple people I went to preschool with over 30 years ago. I never quite gave them that title, but in fairness, my best friend since junior high is still my best friend and I haven't seen him in 6 years. It's more than just a title, but really only on an internal level. Does it need much more definition than that? Is it harming anything for her to believe this way? – Kai Qing May 24 '17 at 22:22
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    Moving on can be really hard. I met a best friend in 5th grade (so I was about 10 years old), and he moved away when I was in 6th or 7th grade or so. I'm now 33 and I still haven't 100% gotten over it. 99%, but not 100%. He has a pretty distinctive name, but I can't find him on Facebook or anything. Every now and then I have a dream where I've finally found him, but invariably I wake up. – Kef Schecter May 25 '17 at 0:11
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    (an invitation to which always seems to appear a day or two after Beth's party) - Considering birthdays are set in place.. this doesn't seem too strange..? – Rob May 25 '17 at 6:39
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    Dear stannius - what is the distance between your place and Alice's? Why do you want to put them apart? Is Beth rejecting new friends because of Alice? My kid has kindergarden friends in the next town some 50km apart, and all the parents still try to get them together at birthdays and every now and then. They think of themselves best friends, but they don't shun on making more friends. So, Why do you think Beth must move on from Alice? – Mindwin May 25 '17 at 17:08
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    (not that this has anything to do with anything), my best friend when I was little lived across the street from me. We were friends since about age 3, and one day in the third grade, I saw moving trucks. Didn't think much of it. Next day he was gone. Never heard from him. No explanation or warning. No cell phones back then, and for some reason, he never reached out to me - had no way to reach him. Really hurt. My best friend now (and since then) has been one I've known since pre-school. – Adam Plocher May 26 '17 at 7:31
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I think attrition will allow this to happen in the most natural and least hurtful way.

You could encourage new friendships by helping Beth to invite other friends over for playdates or taking her and a friend or two to outings like the park or swimming.

Lessons like swimming or art or dance (depends on her interests of course) or joining Girl Scouts might help her to find like-minded friends.

There is no reason for her to forget her friend. I think these sorts of lessons are better taught naturally rather than with a specific lesson. Alice has moved on and that happens with many friendships over a lifetime. Beth will move on herself in time.

It sounds to me like you are raising a thoughtful and kind little girl, and I think that your encouragement (if she suggests inviting Alice) is perfectly fine.

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    Coincidentally (or not), Beth is taking swimming and art classes. I believe Alice is taking dancing lessons. Both are in (different) Girl Scout troops. – stannius May 24 '17 at 19:55
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    @stannius So you're doing all the right things. I think she'll be fine. Truly -- she sounds like a sweetie. – WRX May 24 '17 at 19:56
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I don't see a problem here.

We moved house seven years ago, when my daughters were four and two years old. Till this day they still consider their best friend from that time to still be their best friend, even though they only see her at most once per year. This makes the occasion of seeing the old friend very, very special. This also help reinforce to my daughters the fact that their grandmother and grandfather, who live even further away and are only seen once every two or three years, are also close.

The children understand that physical proximity, or frequency of visitation, is not what defines a best friend. A best friend is defined as the one who treats you well, whose well-being you care for, and whose interests and intellect are similar to your own. That is a lesson that many adults could do well to learn as well.

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    Really great point. Many people only see some family members once or twice a year -- even less. We are still expected to love them even if we don't see them. – WRX May 25 '17 at 12:20
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    Agreed. I grew up in the same situation and at age 29 and 1500 miles between us, I'm still "best friends" with my "Alice". There were periods where we fell out of touch going to different schools but generally saw each other at least a few times a year. And yes, those occasions were very special! – andrhamm May 25 '17 at 13:56
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    Spot on. At the risk of sounding like I'm just being an arse (I'm honestly not trying to be), this answer sums up the problem here: the little girl has the right idea about friendship, whereas the (adult) OP does not. – Lightness Races with Monica May 27 '17 at 18:25
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It depends. Is "Beth" not cultivating new friendships, while sitting at home, pining for her friend who has moved away? If so, I'd take a more active role in cultivating some of those newer friendships (by making time for direct interaction as available as possible) from school and current activities.

If not, I'm not sure why you'd want to forward a lesson that might be construed as (yes, obviously a bit hyperbolic) "friends are disposable once they become mildly inconvenient." Obviously, that's not what you are suggesting or think, so why the need to have her establish a new, more local "best friend?"

Unless they are making friends with kids who are trouble, there's no need for a parent to try and micromanage the friendships of their kids, at any age. Let them choose who they like and how they want to interact, and help to facilitate that, when it's not too much of an imposition on the family unit.

Especially with how connected the world is today, there's no reason why they can't stay frequently in touch, in a virtual sense, and still see each other occasionally.

If it isn't meant to stick, long term, they will eventually drift apart on their own, soon enough. Unless you have objections to the friendship, regardless of distance, or if they are so remote that getting them together is a financial or time hardship, I don't think I'd actively try to discourage them.

Your daughter will learn soon enough on her own that good friends are hard to come by, and precious. If she wants to stay in touch, I'd encourage it.

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    downvoted for judging tone – Rich May 24 '17 at 20:56
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    @Rich - fair enough. I'm failing to see any reason why a parent might want to "disappear" a best friend, so maybe I am judging a bit. – PoloHoleSet May 24 '17 at 21:02
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    I meant to add with respect, because you do give some important pointers that I wasn't likely to think of. Please see if you can edit your answer to be more neutral! (and to be fair, @Willow's answer is judging, with "It sounds to me like you are raising a thoughtful and kind little girl", but it doesn't really inflect the rest of their answer). – Rich May 24 '17 at 21:05
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    My goals include but are not limited to: minimize my daughter's emotional distress to the extent possible; encourage her to form strong relationship with peers who are accessible and reciprocate her feelings. I don't see anything where I suggested my daughter should "dispose" of Alice. I am open to my assumptions being questioned but please assume positive intent. – stannius May 24 '17 at 21:54
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    @stannius I think it's kind of implicit in the fact you view your daughter still seeing Alice as her best friend a problem. Beth is still very attached to Alice in spite of that fact that they've been apart so long. If she hasn't been able to form as strong a bond with someone else yet, it's only natural she would still see Alice this way. Losing friends is hard. Losing friends because someone is actively trying to break your feelings for them is even harder. I think this answer has merit in pointing out that if Beth's feelings aren't causing problems, it's best to leave well enough alone. +1 – jpmc26 May 25 '17 at 0:42
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Why is it important to you that she "moves on" from this friend? Is this friendship harmful to her in some way? If not, then I would just let it take its course. If this friend is truly important to her, she will find a way to maintain the friendship, regardless of distance. If not, it will likely end of its own accord anyway.

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I went through the same thing as your daughter. I made a friend in preschool, moved to the next town over for kindergarten and still considered my preschool friend my best friend throughout elementary school.

Why? It was convenient. When an adult asked me who my best friend was I didn't have to worry about offending one of my current friends by picking someone else they knew. I didn't have to worry about being "rejected" by picking someone who didn't pick me back. Despite not staying in touch with my preschool friend, I would just say he was my best friend.

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Estrangement is almost as terrifying as death, and produces very similar feelings of mourning.

To that effect, you can treat this as "death-lite": talk to her about how you miss your old friends; or if you feel up to it, even family members who have died. Expect crying and hugs! This provides a foundation to base her own losses on; and allows her to develop her own feelings.

(This worked for us in a very similar situation; but please bear in mind the caveat that every child is different, almost like they have minds of their own!)

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I can tell you that I had periods in my life when I didn't have a best friend because I didn't find kids that I can feel as close as to consider best friends.

I still have friends that I see very rarely but consider best friends. When we meet we immediately feel very close. This is something beyond rational decision. You either feel somebody like that or not.

So encouraging her to play with other kids would be nice. But you can't find a best friend for her. She will feel who that is.

update: very important to not tell her there is something wrong with her perception. Just encourage her that she ccould meet other kids that she would feel so close (if she is worried about her situation).

You can explain to her that if it was in your powers to get her closer to her friend, you would do but because you can't, we just need to live our lives as we can.

update 2: very important to give her space to be sad. Just love her, hug her and that is. These feelings will pass. If suppressed, only then they become harmful.

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