My son is diagnosed with ADHD, and I see him struggling when he plays with other kids due to inattention, inability to get engaged in activities, and sometimes even aggression mainly due to his impulsivity. This cuts down his chances of keeping friends and getting invited on more play dates, and that breaks my heart.
I know that if Max is hard to get along with or behaves too badly, kids won’t want to come back to play or won’t invite him over to play again.
I have done a lot of reading and pay close attention to the things I do to help him interact with other kids without stepping on his toes. I try to supervise from indoors if friends are here (which is often because we live in a neighborhood full of children). Socializing is a work in progress, but I know he can do it. Your child with ADHD can, too!
Here are 5 ways you can help your ADHD child make — and keep — friends:
1. Remember that the guest is right (unless it’s in a situation that really matters).
This rule is pretty easy to enforce and helps with bossiness and prevents major fights from breaking out. The rules of a game aren’t a big thing to let go — although for my son, it’s still a struggle. We discuss that our friends have feelings and that we can play by their rules during this play date. My son and I talk about how we want our friends to have fun when they are at our home.
2. Don’t let good manners go by the wayside.
Many kids with ADHD may end up bored (for lack of a better word) on a longer play date. My son simply loses attention during long bouts doing the same activity, and he may come across as rude or wind up engaging in parallel play. He simply cannot stay engaged for long periods of time. We have kids here a lot and they often get involved in a game, playing soccer or some other activity. I’ll look out the window and usually see that my son is climbing a tree or wandering around the yard, not playing with the rest of the kids. He also has a speech delay, so I role play a lot with phrases to use such as asking to play something else. However, if he is happy playing alone by the other children, I don’t push the issue too much.
3. Work to control possessiveness.
This is a big one for us. My son doesn’t always want to share and doesn’t always like to wait his turn to do things (and he may push or cut in front of others). While most kids aren’t the best at sharing at this age, sometimes my son truly doesn’t want to back down. We have pep talks before friends come over and before school to attempt to avoid conflict. If friends are coming here, we put away certain toys that he doesn’t want to share, and anything he chooses to leave out is fair game for our friends.
4. Watch your child closely.
When my son is playing with other kids here at our home, I watch him closely. I try to make sure I am in a place where I can see and hear the conversation. He tends to pick fights and other kids tend to tattle on him frequently, too. I like to be nearby so I can intervene as needed.
5. Get to the root of the problem.
My son often has trouble or upsets other kids and doesn’t even realize it. I try to help him by discussing what happened with his friends and what he could do different the next time. It can be hard not to give too much negative feedback and damage his self-esteem, so I try to make it a constant point to be sensitive (which is NOT always easy).
Making friends doesn’t come easy for children with ADHD. My son struggles a lot socially. He is a good boy, yet often misbehaves at school and on play dates, especially when large groups of kids are playing together. He does much better playing with one friend at a time.
It’s a major goal of mine to help him have some friends and boost his self-esteem. It hurts my heart when he comments that no one likes him or when I see other kids getting upset with him, especially when he doesn’t mean to do anything wrong.
This is a work in progress, of course — one that isn’t coming to an end anytime soon. I am doing my best to work hard and find ways to help my son feel happier and have friends — something he needs and deserves to have!
How do you help your child with ADHD forge friendships?
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