October is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) awareness month. Kids diagnosed with ADHD – Impulsive, Inattentive, or Combined Type – often struggle with social relationships. Like a structure built with Jenga blocks, friendships can be wobbly and precarious. However, friendship skills are teachable and can be improved with the right support and coaching.
ADHD Traits That Complicate Friendships
The traits associated with all types of ADHD make it more challenging to make and keep friends, carry on conversations, and regulate emotions. For example, does your child:
- Frequently interrupt when playing with peers?
- Confuse peers by talking about random topics within a conversation?
- Alienate others by saying hurtful comments to friends he cares about?
- Have trouble reading facial expressions and/or tone of voice? Particularly those that let he/she know they have made a social mishap?
- Confuse their peers by having big reactions to “small” situations?
How to Develop Friendship Skills
In the table below, you will find common challenges for kids diagnosed with ADHD and strategies to overcome these social challenges. Intentionally teaching and practicing pro-social skills can help your child make new friends and enjoy their relationships.
Strategies to Help
Often, when a child does not think before they speak or act, a “social crash” occurs, and feelings are hurt, or relationships are damaged. For example, without asking, a younger child may take apart a LEGO creation a playmate just made. Or, a middle-schooler may brag about how easy a test was without considering that a friend may have struggled.
Thinking before saying or doing – is it kind/necessary? Helpful?
Explore with your child, “how would you feel if someone said or did this to you?”
Think about the social consequence of my words or actions. Would feelings be hurt? Could what I say or do make the other person angry? If ____ then _____. Explore positive ways to use friendship skills.
Focus is needed to talk about the same topic and engage in the same activity with others. Children with ADHD often have difficulty with this skill.
Concentration is also needed to watch others’ social cues. Facial expressions and body language indicate if someone wants to talk, play or interact.
|Add on Story
In this activity, the first person starts a story in two sentences. Other players take turns adding on two sentences to create a cooperative tale. Emphasize the importance of listening to match the characters, setting, and storyline.
Be a social cues detective! Together with your child, watch a short video clip without the sound. Can you read the facial expression and body language to determine if people want to interact? Are they using their friendship skills? Watch it again with the sound and see if you are correct.
Big emotional reactions to “small problems” can lead to social crashes.
|Give Feelings a Name
Discuss feelings of characters in books, TV shows and video games.
Is it a Big Deal or Little Deal?
Practice accurate gauging of the feelings’ intensity. Does the size of the feeling match the situation? Ask your child, “Is it a big deal or a little deal?”
Books on Impulsivity:
I Can’t Believe You Said That by Julia Cook Read Aloud Available Here
What Should Danny Do? By Adir Levy and Ganit Levy
Books & Resources to Help Emotional Regulation:
The Way I Feel by Janan Cain Read Aloud Available Here
Soda Pop Head by Julia Cook Read Aloud Available Here
Cosmic Kids Zen Den – Mindfulness for Kids Videos Available Here
Written by Carol Miller, LCSW and Danielle Bentz, MA