Guest Post: Helping Children Cope with the Loss of a Friendship

By James J. Crist, Ph.D., author of  The Survival Guide for Making and Being Friends

Jamie Crist, FSP AuthorMaking and keeping friends is one of the most important skills your child will learn. Having friends helps kids learn about themselves, resolve conflict, and learn new skills. It can boost their self-esteem and keep them from feeling lonely. Some friendships can last a lifetime. However, for many kids, their early friendships eventually end and this can be very painful for them. In this post, I’ll talk about the reasons that children’s friendships end and ways you can help your child cope.

Friendships end for many reasons. Sometimes kids just grow apart. People change as they get older, and they may develop new interests or new friends who are interested in the same things. Proximity helps maintain many friendships. It’s easier to remain friends when you are on the same team, in the same grade or class, or live near one another. When that changes, kids don’t see each other as often. That makes it harder to keep a friendship going.

Some kids talk about others “stealing” their friends. Maybe a new child enters the circle and two of the kids start hanging out more often, causing the third child to feel excluded. Of course, friends are not things—they can’t be stolen. five-elementary-school-children-outside-detail-c-pressmaster-dreamstime_com.jpgBut it’s still hurtful when this happens and it’s hard not to feel jealous. Sometimes, kids grow apart because one child gets into trouble or is hurtful to others, and the other doesn’t like this behavior.

Some friendships are one-sided. If one child is making all the effort to get together with a friend who rarely reciprocates, this can lead to them growing apart. Some kids are too busy, or their parents are too busy, to make the time to stay in touch. But it may also be that the other kid just isn’t as interested in being friends. That can be hurtful, but it’s part of life.

Moving away is another common reason that friendships end. Kids often move on once they start making new friends, but this doesn’t always take away the sadness of missing old friends, especially if they were very close. One good thing about technology is that it makes it a lot easier to keep in touch when you live too far away to get together as often. Kids can text, email, message each other, or even make video calls using Skype. If your child is very close to a friend who moved away, consider taking the time to help them keep in touch. If the friend is not too far away, make a point of arranging a play date periodically.

One of the most important ways you can help children deal with the loss of a friendship is by validating their feelings. Saying, “I’m so sorry son, that’s really sad that Derek doesn’t want to be friends anymore,” is much better than telling them that it’s nothing to be upset over because he will make new friends. You don’t want to minimize the importance of that friendship to your child and invalidate his feelings. If you can relate to the feeling based on your own experiences, share that, too, so your child knows that you can understand what losing a friend feels like.

(c) jodielee_dreamstime_comYou can also help by asking questions to get your child to talk more about it. Try asking these questions. “Why do you think the friendship is ending?” “How do you feel about that?” “Is there anything you think you can do to get back to being friends?” “Have you both talked about it?” “How do you think you can handle it?”

If you feel tempted to give advice, ask your child first. “Would you like to hear some ideas on how to handle this?” is a respectful approach and makes it more likely that your child will be open to what you have to say. Let your child know that it is ultimately his or her choice how to handle it. If you think your child may not be getting the entire story, or that your child may have behaved in ways that contributed to the problem, consider talking with the friend’s parents, especially if you know them well. You might be able to work together to save the friendship if both kids are willing.

Survival Guide MakingBeingFriendsDr. James J. Crist is a psychologist specializing in children with ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorders. He is the clinical director and a staff psychologist at the Child and Family Counseling Center in Woodbridge, Virginia, where he provides psychological testing and individual, couples, and family psychotherapy for children, adolescents, and adults. He has authored several books, including The Survival Guide for Making and Being FriendsMad: How to Deal with Your Anger and Get Respect, and What to Do When You’re Cranky & Blue. Visit his website at

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Guest Post: Coloring the World with Kindness

by Barbara Gruener 

While researching for the keynote address I gave recently at the National Forum on Character Education, “Kindness Is the Real Global Warming,” I came across too many inspirational quotes-made-into-posters to count. But this one about throwing kindness around like confetti really stuck with me.

confettiquoteImagine with me a world so colored by kindness it resembles little pieces of confetti flying all over. Every day. The sparkly kind that officials shoot off after something big, like the NFL Super Bowl. Lots and lots of it. Millions of little pieces. In every nook and cranny. Colorful, glittery pieces. Everywhere. And not just random, either. Planned. Intentional, even. Only this isn’t the kind of confetti that you need to clean up, because its recipients take it with them and are moved to act in kind. It would be like giving a dose of vitamin B12 to energize the masses and keep people going and going. 
Now, let’s stop imagining and get moving. We can crusade for a world so colored by kindness, service, and care that it’s blinding. Let’s get started right away; it’s okay to start small. Acts of kindness don’t have to be great to be grand. Try one or all of these fabulous fifteen free-or-almost-free ideas: 

  1. Smile at someone. 
  2. Hold the door open for someone. 
  3. Give someone a helping hand. 
  4. Leave a close parking spot for someone who needs it more. 
  5. Send someone an uplifting song.
  6. Leave a note of encouragement in a library book. 
  7. Donate a gently used item that you no longer use. 
  8. Volunteer an hour a week to mentor or tutor someone. 
  9. Visit someone who’s shut-in or homebound. 
  10. Send a kind text. 
  11. Offer someone a ride. 
  12. Get a bouquet of roses and hand them out one by one.
  13. Send a note of cheer to someone who’s down. 
  14. Leave a note of affirmation on someone’s windshield.
  15. Bake something yummy and share.

Aviator Amelia Earhart once said, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make a new tree.” Yes, roots of kindness, that’s what I’m talking about. A big, hearty, far-reaching tree. Acts of kindness branch out like that, leaving both the giver and the recipient with a feel-good warmth that will easily spread. They spark chemicals in the brain (like oxytocin and serotonin) that leave the giver with a helper’s high. And they follow the law of attraction; what goes around comes around. Try it and see. Throw kindness like confetti and experience kindness when it finds its way back to you, maybe even when you least expect it.
Want to start a Kindness Campaign but you’re not sure how? Check out these amazing resources:
Great Kindness Challenge Week logoKids for Peace is hosting The Great Kindness Challenge this week, January 26-30, 2015. Signing up is easy and free, and you’ll receive a download with 50 ways to throw kindness confetti in your school or organization. A great resource well beyond Great Kindness Challenge week!
Visit the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation for more kindness ideas.
Check out Mariëlle’s Magical Daydream blog for creative kindness ideas.
Create a ripple effect with kindness cards at the Ripple Kindness Project.
Follow this collaborative Kindness Pinterest board
Visit me at the Corner on Character.
Get out your confetti; happy coloring!

How do you inspire kindness in your students?

gruener2013Barbara Gruener, a thirty-year veteran educator, serves as a school counselor and character coach at Westwood-Bales Elementary, a National School of Character. She is the author of the Ferne Press new release What’s Under Your Cape? SUPERHEROES of the Character Kind and enjoys influencing others through her inspirational keynotes and interactive workshops. Barbara lives in Texas with her husband and their three children.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Cash in on Learning: Approaches to Working with Students from Poverty

Richard Cash EdD, FSP AuthorI began my teaching career in St. Paul, Minnesota, at a magnet school for gifted students. My first thought about my first teaching assignment was that it would be one of the easiest jobs in the field. However, the diversity of the students I ended up working with was almost beyond my comprehension. My students weren’t all middle class and of the majority—they came from an array of backgrounds, both culturally and economically. I learned quickly about the impact of poverty on learning.

There are six major issues related to poverty that I see affecting the learning process:

  1. The ever-increasing number of students in poverty
  2. Varied social responsiveness
  3. Mobility
  4. Differing social and emotional needs
  5. Truancy and attendance
  6. Status inequity

In this blog post, I’d like to give you ideas on how to address these issues to improve our students’ chances for success.

The ever-increasing number
There are two types of poverty: situational and generational. Situational poverty is relatively short in duration. A parent may have lost a job or maybe going through a series of jobs in which wages are not sufficient to make ends meet. Washington Post article on students in poverty link holderGenerational poverty, on the other hand, carries over from one generation to the next and seems to have a never-ending outcome. Granted, situational poverty can be hard on families. But generational poverty takes a much greater toll on each and every member of the family, emotionally, physically, and psychologically.

Developing a greater awareness of the issues of poverty in your community can help you understand the stresses these families go through every day. Also, learn about the cultures of families you work with. Try to go beyond just the surface (of foods and holidays) to the value systems, religious beliefs, and relationship structures.

Keep in mind that families in poverty should never be shamed or blamed. Your job is to ensure that the child has the tools to break the effects of the cycle of poverty and achieve a better future.

Varied social responsiveness
Students living in poverty may have different acceptable social behaviors at home compared to what is acceptable in school, such as being loud or highly verbal. To ensure kids are successful in “code switching” (knowing what behaviors are acceptable in which location), set very clear expectations or norms of behavior. Have the students practice them on a routine basis and recite them often. The norms should also be consistent from room to room or building-wide. Keep the norms phrased in the affirmative (such as “We will treat each other the way we would like to be treated”). Also, keep the norms (not rules) to a short list—too many norms can be overwhelming and hard to remember.

Families in poverty may move a lot based on housing affordability or job locations. To help students stay on track for the next grade level, districts should have a consistent curricular scope and sequence from building to building and from grade level to grade level. This can ensure that children, in moving from one place to another, don’t miss out on learning. I am not suggesting a tight pacing guide in which every teacher must teach a particular lesson on a particular day, but a consistency of content standards and assessments throughout the district.

Curricular consistency works well in large school districts when children move from one side of town to the other. However, sometimes students move to different districts. To ensure students develop effective learning skills no matter where they’re headed, make sure you are teaching the tools of thinking. Regardless of whether a district teaches Civil War history in fourth or fifth grade, students with quality thinking tools will be able to catch on to the content quickly.

Differing social and emotional needs
We are all born with a certain set of emotional responses such as anger, fear, surprise, and joy. Other emotional responses, such as optimism, empathy, and compassion, are considered learned behaviors. Students from poverty may not develop a full complement of learned emotional responses. Again, NO SHAME AND BLAME HERE. When parents are absent due to working multiple jobs or other reasons, they may not be demonstrating the learned emotional responses. Therefore, teaching appropriate emotional responses embedded within the curriculum can assist your students in developing the full complement of learned responses. Additionally, modeling these responses for your students is also an effective way of helping them build emotional strength and resilience.

Students with different social and emotional needs also require reliable relationships. This means they can count on knowing their teachers and classmates. Fewer teachers and transitions are necessary for them to feel safe, secure, and connected.

Truancy and attendance
In some cases, when parents work multiple jobs or are absent, an elder sibling may have to stay home to take care of a sick child. Also, there may be no one monitoring whether a student gets up in the morning or attends school. As a classroom teacher, you can prepare for these absences by creating a “make-up center.” The center should provide packets of materials from daily lessons, videos of lessons, or websites that can bring the absent child up to speed. NCES Common Core Students In Poverty Study published January 2015You also may consider having the material available in a community center, library, or place of worship where your students go. Also, build your capacity to differentiate for students who have spotty attendance, compacting lessons or units to get to the essentials.

Status inequity
Students who do not live in poverty may not be aware of its difficulties and challenges. In this case, they may shun, socially isolate, or bully children in poverty. To ensure all students are respected and acknowledged for their unique qualities, build a learning environment that nurtures a community spirit. Focus on community service and citizenship. Students need to feel accepted and respected for who they are. There should be an air of inclusiveness, making sure that every student feels like a part of the whole with something to offer.

Poverty has many dimensions. As teachers, knowing its issues and working toward breaking the cycle through education helps us be effective change agents in children’s lives.

Which of these issues affect students in your classrooms? How are you supporting these students?

Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally. His most recent book is Differentiation for Gifted Learners, coauthored with Diane Heacox, Ed.D. He is also author of Advancing Differentiation: Thinking and Learning for the 21st Century.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Enter to Win Bullying Prevention Resources for Kids, Tweens, Teens, and Educators

giveaway button © by Free Spirit PublishingThis month we are excited to give away a set of the bullying prevention titles listed below.

January giveawy collage

How to Enter: Leave a comment below telling us how you would use these great bullying prevention resources in your work.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment below for each of the following tasks that you complete:

Each comment counts as a separate entry—that’s four chances to win! Entries must be received by midnight January 30, 2015.

The winner will be contacted via email on or about February 6, 2015, and will need to respond within one week to claim his or her prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way affiliated with, administered, or endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Winner must be a U.S. resident, 18 years of age or older.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Author Spotlight: James J. Crist, Ph.D.

The staff at Free Spirit is privileged to work with many amazing authors. We will be sharing more author spotlights with you, and hope you enjoy learning about these writers who are dedicated to helping kids succeed. The following interview was recently published in our newsletter, Upbeat News.

Jamie Crist_FSP AuthorThis month’s spotlight interview is with Dr. James J. Crist, a psychologist specializing in children with ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorders, and the author of several classic Free Spirit resources including What to Do When You’re Scared & Worried and What to Do When You’re Cranky & Blue. Widely known for his kind and kid-friendly writing, Dr. Crist is known around Free Spirit headquarters as the author who receives the most fan mail from readers. His latest book, The Survival Guide for Making and Being Friends, is a prime example of his compassionate, caring personality.

Q: What prompted you to write The Survival Guide for Making and Being Friends?

Survival Guide MakingBeingFriendsJames J. Crist: I have worked with so many kids over the years who struggle with making and keeping friends that I thought a resource was needed. With today’s kids spending so much time in front of screens such as TV and video games, and having less unstructured play time, they don’t get the experience they need to learn how to get along with others and work out conflicts. I also enjoy keeping in touch with friends and organizing get togethers, so I decided to use that experience to teach kids how to do this as well.

Q: How do you hope to impact children with this book?

JC: My hope is that kids will learn lots of valuable skills to be able to develop friendships that can potentially last a lifetime. It’s sad to see how many people don’t maintain friendships, which I find to be one of the greatest joys of life. By teaching kids specific social skills, such as how to introduce yourself, start a conversation, get to know others, and keep a conversation going, you can help them in many ways, including to feel more confident and happier in their daily lives.

Q: What books inspired you most as a child?

JC: I was a big fan of science fiction as a kid. I also liked the Hardy Boys series, which involved kids working together to solve crimes and mysteries.

Q: Did you make friends easily as a kid? What advice would you give to kid Jamie?

What to do when youre scared adn worriedJC: Yes, and no. I was very shy as a child and even though I had friends, it was hard to get up the courage to talk to people I didn’t know. It wasn’t until my high school years that I developed a close circle of friends, some of whom I still see when we all return to our hometown over the holidays. As far as advice, I would have told “kid Jamie” to ask himself, “What’s the worst that can happen if you go up to someone and start talking?”

Q: What was your favorite thing about school as a kid?

JC: Lunch, music class, and the closing bell for the rest of the day. Seriously, I did enjoy learning as a kid. Even though I was shy, I did manage to get the lead part in a few school musicals. In high school, I played cards with friends a lot during lunch and that was fun.

Q: What was your least favorite thing about school as a kid?

JC: Gym class and recess. I wasn’t very athletic and was usually picked last for any team sports. I wish that gym classes taught more life fitness skills that were not so competitive, such as aerobics, yoga, and even weightlifting.

Q: What makes you a “Free Spirit”?

WhatToDoWhenYoureCrankyAndBlueJC: I’m learning to “go with the flow” a lot more. It’s actually very freeing to be able to let things go, not let little things get to you, not get bogged down with anger and resentment, and focus on what is most important. Letting others be free spirits, too, instead of having to conform to what your expectations of them are, helps as well!

Q: What do you enjoy most about writing books for kids?

JC: Getting letters from readers all over the world telling me about their problems and how my books have helped them is one of the most rewarding things about writing. Knowing that I have made a difference in the lives of others gives my life meaning.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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