Children with ADD/ADHD often have trouble making friends. Typically, this is due to a lack of social skills and difficulty to relate to others in a meaningful way. As a parent, it can be hard to know that your child may not fit in with the rest of their peers because of their disorder. Feelings of helplessness and anger often arise for parents of children with ADHD. But there are proactive things you can do to help your child make friends and have a healthy social life interacting with other children.
Starting in the Home
Perhaps the most effective way to help your ADHD child make friends is to start with teaching them social skills at home with siblings and/or parents. Practicing common interactions at home can have a significant effect on your child’s ability to recreate those interpersonal situations when they are around their peers with more comfort and confidence.
The best way to start this training is to start by listening to your child. Most likely, they will have a lot to say to you about the situation, and if you take the time to listen to their past struggles and successes with friendships you will be better able to a) build trust with your child so they are more likely to accept your support, and b) understand their situation and what their strengths/weaknesses are regarding friend-making (and friend-keeping). Be sympathetic to hearing your child’s stories and allow them the space to share their feelings, both positive and negative, about what it has been like for them with other children at school and other social situations.
Another helpful method is to spend time with your child where the goal is to have fun and be carefree. You can make time spent with your child a model for how to interact with others they are less familiar with, which will eventually carry over into those other relationships as your child becomes more comfortable in social settings. Children with ADHD are also encouraged to explore relationships with their siblings under the parent’s watchful eye, and offer positive feedback when your child engages in positive social interaction. Learning common social skills in the home and taking them out into the real world can be a huge aid to children with ADHD.
Become Aware of Who Your ADHD Child Chooses to Befriend
Often times, children with ADHD make poor choices when it comes to choosing friends. Instead of befriending children their age who would be considered average, the way most children do, children with ADHD may pick someone who is a bad influence on them, typically because they seem exciting and a break from the masses. This happens because children with ADHD have shorter attention spans and find that the more rebellious peers hold their interest longer than normal. They may also choose to befriend children who are younger than they are in order to boss them around.
In either case, and there are others, it is important to help your child become aware of their choices in friends and guide them toward more healthy, reciprocal friendships. One suggestion for how to actively facilitate this would be to volunteer in a program your child participates in, or become a member of the social organizations that interest your child. There, you can observe and support your child as a ally in making friends, and have some control over who they befriend (especially for younger children 5-11). These experiences will provide many more opportunities to help your child find appropriate friends and make it easier on you to schedule playdates with other parents who are also involved in volunteering.