Busy Days Ahead
The Social Scene: Making Friends & Fitting In
Most people who have gone through high school report that getting their social bearings was the hardest part. Entering the fray with ADHD adds to the stress. Even if making friends comes easily, being impulsive, misreading cues, and crossing invisible boundaries can jeopardize your social standing. It's easy to lose friends or be ostracized if you don't master the rules of the road.
- Take the long view. With ADHD comes a lack of impulse control and inhibition - a sure recipe for trouble. ADDers also have a hard time anticipating outcomes. If you're feeling pressure to fit in and are considering an action you know is wrong, ask yourself about possible consequences. If your friends frequently get into trouble, consider whether they're the kind of people you want to be with. Remember that a small mistake now can lead to a big problem later.
- Learn the unwritten rules. ADDers often have a hard time understanding limits and following guidelines. When the rules are unstated, it's almost impossible. But in the social world of high school, it can be important to know who sits at which cafeteria table, or what clothes are within the limits of cool. Ask an older sibling or friend how things work.
- Heed body language. Unspoken language accounts for up to 90 percent of communication. But people with ADHD miss most of it - they're looking everywhere but at the person who's talking. In doing so, they're also sending a message of disinterest, even though looking around may help keep them focused on what's being said. Try to become aware of what the speaker's body is "broadcasting." Ask someone close to you about the unspoken messages you're sending, and what cues you might be missing. Read up on body language... and keep your eyes on your friends.
- Mind your boundaries. Do you impulsively say things you shouldn't, and interrupt when others are speaking? Make an effort to ask yourself silently what you're about to say, and how others might react. And give your friends a chance to talk... they'll appreciate your interest.
- Tell your friends about ADHD. Have classmates ever asked about your accommodations? Perhaps you're a bit quirky and others have wondered why. Plan in advance how you'll explain it. Share with them the challenges and the strengths of ADDers - creativity, quick thinking, and intuition are just a few. When friends understand what you're dealing with, they'll become allies in any struggles you have.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO
Teens have reached an age when they can get into real trouble - yet they're less likely than ever to heed our advice. We can try to point them in the right direction, but it's not always easy, particularly if they're not ready to face some of their ADHD challenges. Let your child know you're in her corner and always available to talk.
- Let your child shine. Give your child opportunities to find something he excels at - let him take that rock-climbing class or use your garage as his band's practice studio. The self-esteem that comes with success will carry over into his social circle and beyond.
- Be aware of warning signs. If a child's behavior or habits change radically - she's not eating, he's become sullen or withdrawn - consult a mental-health professional. Teens with ADHD are likely to exaggerate social failures, leading to depression or even suicidal thoughts.