Published on ADDitudeMag.com
"Mom, I Made a New Friend!"
Social skills do not come naturally to children with ADHD. Help your child make and keep buddies by following these “friendly” strategies.
Give Him the Words -- and the Praise
Demonstrate and rehearse social skills with your child. Cover everything from maintaining eye contact, to interrupting
, to saying harsh things at a play date.
Instead of his saying “This is boring,” teach him to say, “Can we play something else for a little while?” Instead of saying “That’s a stupid game you picked,” teach him to say, “How about we play Chutes and Ladders?” Progress often comes slowly, so praise him for his efforts every inch of the way.
Teach Group Dynamics
Kids make new acquaintances by joining others who are playing:
> Stand near two people
you might be interested in meeting at a party who are talking to each other. Look at them and say nothing, just listen. If you are interested in what they are saying, stick around. If not, move on.
> If you are still hanging around, notice if the two children start looking at you. If they do, they have invited you into the conversation. If they don’t look at you, they want to be alone. Just walk away.
Be a Play Date Observer
Talk to your child about what
makes a good friend, and which behaviors are, and are not, appropriate. Coach
your child on how to behave
during a play date—say hello, don’t interrupt, etc. Make
an excuse to hang around in a nearby room to see how things go. Parents who get
the best results intervene at the “point of performance”—in the setting where
and when the skill is required. As your child gets older, it’s best to let him
handle social situations on his own, but be available to talk.
Look for Younger Friends -- at First
Because many ADHD kids lag behind their peers in social skills, they tend to be more
immature than those without ADHD. As a result, ADHD kids may feel more comfortable
playing with younger children
. Your child will be able to practice his friendship skills
without being made fun of. As a bonus, the younger friend will most likely look
up to his older buddy, instilling self-esteem and confidence in him. As he
masters social skills, chances are he will make friends with peers.
Join Forces at School
Talk with the teacher and ask
if she can pair up students to tackle some classwork and projects together.
Your child won’t get lost in the chaotic process of picking partners and feel
left out and unconnected. Plus, working with a classmate will strongly encourage
your child to practice his social skills.
It Is Different for Girls
Girls with ADHD have more
trouble with relationships than do boys. They feel the sting of peer rejection
more than their counterparts. A girl with ADHD may be slow to pick up on social cues
and may even be verbally aggressive when she feels frustrated. Try stoking the sparks of friendship by volunteering to
take your daughter and a friend on a fun outing—the amusement park or to the
beach. If you take two friends, there
is a chance that they might pair off and exclude your daughter.
Friendships Start at Home
Invite three or four friends
to your house to do something your child enjoys—having pizza or playing a video
game. Plan special events around special holidays: You could have a Cinco de
Mayo festival or an MTV Video Award party. If your child shies away from
groups, as do many ADHD children, invite just one or two friends over.
Exercise His Social Skills at School
Teachers can help children
make friends by taking playground breaks
from the classroom routine whenever
possible. Children relax when they play games that everyone knows — and they
forget their differences. Weakness that may show up in the classroom may
disappear on the playground. Choose noncompetitive games, like “Amoeba Tag,” in
which the goal is for everyone to be “It.”
Wait for a Teachable Moment
As your child learns new
social skills, don’t blast him when he makes missteps. Be patient and pick up a cue from
your child to gently suggest advice. If your child complains that no one likes
her or she doesn’t have any friends, hear her out. Then say, “Sometimes kids
with ADD have trouble getting along with friends. There are some things you can
do to get along better with your friends. Want to hear about them?” At this
point, she will be all ears.
Create Special Moments
Plan 15 minutes of quality
time with your child several times each week. Do fun things together, just the
two of you, without directing or criticizing his behavior. If you’re at a baseball game, talk about his
favorite player or whether the team has a chance of winning the World Series. Building
a relationship with your child pays off in terms of friendships. Some studies
show that when parents work on relationship-building at home, they see better
behavior in a child’s peer relationships right away.
Get with a Program
Sometimes the direct approach
works best. Sign up your child for a social skills program outside of school or
talk with the guidance counselor or special needs teacher in your school to
form a social skills group. Educational experts highly recommend the following
programs: Project ACHIEVE’s Stop & Think Social Skills Program;
Skillstreaming the Adolescent, developed by Arnold Goldstein and Ellen
McGinnis; and “Social Skills Autopsy,” developed by Rick Lavoie.
Find His Passion
Some children benefit from team
sports; others prefer solo activities. Team sports and activities can teach
your child skills that often lead to friendships off the field. Before signing
your child up, talk to the coach or teacher. Have a frank discussion about
whether your child with ADHD would be welcome. Go with your child to meet the
coach and other teammates before the first practice. Determine if the coach
encourages fun and praises their efforts—or if he would be too competitive.
Show Him How it Is Done
The simple acts of making
friends with other parents, having relatives over for dinner, and keeping in
touch with friends through PTA groups and church teaches your child about
social skills. Showing your child how you make friends may give him clues on
how he can do it. Plus, telling other parents about your child’s social issues
makes them more likely to take an interest. They might encourage other children
to include your child in activities.
Turn Teasing on its Head
Good social skills can help
fend off a bully. The most effective technique for deflecting
teasing is humor. Rehearse humorous comebacks to classmates who tease your
child. He should
never tease back. Some examples include: “Boo-hoo” (said half-heartedly and
pretending to rub one eye with a closed fist), “So what?”, “I heard that one in
kindergarten,” “Tell me when you get to the funny part,” “And your point is…”,
“Talk to the hand ‘cause the face ain’t listening.”
Meds Can Help
If your child’s impulsive
behavior— interrupting or constantly jumping from one thing to the next—gets in
the way of his making friends, ADHD medication can help. Work with your child’s
doctor to find the right dosage, keeping in mind that the hormonal changes
caused by puberty can change how children metabolize medication.
Don't Push Too Hard
Not every child with ADHD will
be a social butterfly—and that’s OK. Studies show that having one close friend
is enough to develop self-confidence. Most socially isolated children will
eventually learn how to handle their behaviors and establish friendships on
their own. Once adolescence hits, kids tend to act on the urge to fit in.
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