ADHD and the Struggle for Friends
ADHD can present unique challenges for children when it comes to forming and maintaining friendships. A 2017 study in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that children with ADHD experienced significantly more negative interactions among their peers, than those without ADHD. This is because children with ADHD are more likely to struggle with impulse control, listening skills and rejection sensitivity, making it difficult for them to connect with their peers. If your child has ADHD, it's essential to support them in building positive relationships throughout their childhood. Here are some ways you can help your child develop meaningful friendships.
Arrange social activities: Children with ADHD benefit from structured activities that provide opportunities for social interaction. Encourage your child to participate in after-school clubs, sports teams, or other extracurricular activities that align with their interests. Even video games (if done in moderation) can be a fun way to interact with friends. As long as there’s a shared interest, this is a great way to help your child connect with others on a regular basis.
Teach social skills: Children with ADHD may struggle with social skills, such as taking turns, listening, and showing empathy. As a parent, you can help your child improve these skills by practicing them at home. Role-playing scenarios with your child, such as sharing a toy or asking for help, can help them develop the skills they need to interact positively with their peers. A great book you can use for this is ‘Why will no one play with me?’ by Caroline Maguire.
Children with ADHD benefit from structure and routine. Providing a predictable routine can help your child feel more comfortable and confident in social situations. For example, you can establish a regular sports session with your child’s friend or plan a weekly outing with a group of children. You can also arrange to play board games with a group of friends on the weekend. This can be a great way to practise turn taking and award positive feedback.
Be patient: Building friendships takes time and effort, and it's essential to be patient with your child as they navigate social situations. Encourage your child to persevere even if it takes time to find the right friends. Reassure them that making friends is a process, and it's okay to experience setbacks along the way.
If your child is struggling significantly with social skills, consider seeking outside help. You may want to discuss your child’s situation with the school to see if any accommodations can be put in place. Alternatively, a therapist or coach who specialises in ADHD can provide support and guidance to help your child develop their character and build confidence among their friends.
Making and maintaining friends can be a huge challenge for children with ADHD, but it's essential for their social and emotional well-being. As a parent, you play a crucial role in supporting your child's sociability, by giving them the opportunity to interact with others on a regular basis. The more practice your child gets, the more you’ll see them grow in confidence.