ADHD and Your Child's Social Life
Friendships are an important part of childhood. They create a sense of belonging and help kids learn important skills, including cooperation and negotiation, which they'll carry with them throughout their lives. Kids who have friends are happier and less likely to get into trouble with drugs and alcohol as they get older, too.
Yet making friends isn't easy for a kid with ADHD. Your child probably has a hard time listening, which can make for one-sided conversations that are no fun for the other person. A kid with ADHD also tends to be impulsive. Yours might blurt out the first thing that's on their mind, even if it's mean-spirited. They may cut to the front of the line while waiting their turn in a game.
Kids with ADHD also find it hard to read social cues, so your child may not notice other kids roll their eyes when they're bored or annoyed with him or her. Studies show that, because of ADHD, these kids face greater rejection and alienation from their peers.
That doesn't mean your child can't create -- and keep -- great friendships. They just might have to work a little harder at it. And they may need some extra help from you.
Make Friends More Easily
What can you do to help your child make friends?
Treat the ADHD. Some of the same treatments that help your child succeed in school will also help with social issues. An ADHD medication can cut down on some of the behaviors, such as being impulsive, that lead to peer rejection.
Make introductions. In social settings, if your child seems nervous about talking to another child, you can help start a conversation. Set up play dates with other kids from school that are well-supervised and that have specific activities planned ahead of time. Keep in mind: Kids with ADHD tend to play better with one or two other children than they do in large groups.
Get active. Look for group activities that center around your child's interests, whether that's art, video games, or sports. Instead of signing them up for what you think is best, let your child take part in the decision, too. Programs designed with ADHD kids in mind are especially helpful with social issues.
Practice. Counselors and therapists offer social-skill programs, which help children with ADHD learn how to get along with other kids. Then you can practice the same steps at home, and reward your child for getting them right.
Have a Backup Plan
Talk to the school's guidance counselor and your child's teacher, as well. Ask for progress reports about how your child is doing. Work with the counselor and teachers to help resolve any conflicts and improve friendships.
Since kids with ADHD can be a target for bullying, be prepared. Talk with your child about what to do if they get teased or picked on at school. Make sure they know it's OK to tell you when they are bullied, so you can alert school administrators.
While you want to encourage friendships, don't go overboard. Remember that your child doesn't need to be part of the most popular group at school. Just one close friend can keep them from feeling lonely and left out.