ADHD in Boys

Discord Chats and Xbox Games Alone Will Not Sustain Your Son’s Friendships

Most boys with ADHD do not think much about their social relationships outside of school or activities. This is not because they are apathetic, but because they live in the moment so peers who are out of sight are also out of mind. This ADHD tendency may hold long-term consequences for your son in this time of social distancing; here, learn how to help him appreciate and undertake the hard work of sustaining friendships.

Many children with ADHD live in the here and now. They may have difficulty recalling past experiences and applying information from past experiences to the present or using it for future planning. They also struggle with future thinking skills, or the ability to visualize doing a task in the future (such as handing in homework after it’s completed, recalling what a sufficiently clean bedroom looks like, etc.) This in-the-moment living also applies to social relationships.

While most boys with ADHD enjoy being around their peers and are socially motivated, quite a few of the boys with whom I work (especially those in elementary and middle school) do not really think about social relationships outside of school or structured activities. This is not because they are apathetic to these relationships; rather it’s because they live in the moment, thus when they are not with their peers, they’re “out of sight, out of mind.”

So what happens to these “out of sight, out of mind” social relationships during this unprecedented time of social distancing? They may perish if parents don’t teach their sons the responsibility and work required to sustain friendships — beyond just speaking through video games or social media.

During the past three weeks, I’ve been teaching the following concepts:

  • When you reach out to someone you consider a friend, it shows them that you are thinking about them. This is a very important concept for boys with ADHD, many of whom struggle socially due to difficulty with perspective taking — specifically, thinking about others and understanding their thoughts about you.
  • When you’re gaming online with other kids, stretch the conversation beyond what’s happening in the game. Ask them if they’ve been outside, talk about how you’re doing classes online, etc. While many boys with ADHD say they have gaming “friends,” they often know little to nothing about these individuals. If they do know them, the conversations seldom stretch beyond what’s happening in the game.
  • Group chats are fine, but they’re not the same as texting/messaging someone individually. Group chats do not show someone you’re thinking about them and want to connect with them.
  • Responding to someone’s story on Instagram or Snapchat is fine, but it doesn’t really show you’re putting effort into your relationship.
  • You can show you’re thinking of one of your buddies by sending a funny meme, YouTube video, or song you want them to hear.
  • Ask them if they’ve been watching any shows or YouTubers, and try watching their recommendations even if you’re not really interested. I call this doing a “fake out,” when you show interest in something that a friend likes so you can have a common interest to discuss. (I share stories about how this helped me cultivate friendships in middle school and high school.)
  • Try to talk to two or three guys a few times a week aside from chatting while gaming.

[How to Make Friends: A Guide for Kids with ADHD (and Their Parents, Too)]

I teach all the guys with whom I work that building and sustaining friendships takes significant effort and it’s their responsibility to make an effort to connect with other kids, particularly right now.

Many parents do not put much thought into their sons’ lack of social relationships outside of school or activities because, over time, they have become conditioned to socializing over video games. Help your son learn how to put time and effort into social relationships during this time when school is out. If he’s not receptive to hearing this from you, let him know that the “ADHD Dude” said this or show him one of my Dude Talk videos on the ADHD Dude YouTube channel.

Research has shown that the best predictor of success in life is not intelligence, but rather the ability to form and sustain social relationships with others. Many adult men struggle with this; if you can start the teaching process now, you are helping your son learn a skill that will help him for the rest of his life.

[Free Guide: How to Help Your Child with ADHD Make Good Friends]


Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSW is the facilitator of the ADHD Dude Facebook Group and YouTube channel.

Updated on September 16, 2020

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