Dear ADDitude

Dear ADDitude: How Can I Heal a Broken Heart?

“What do you do when all your child wants in the world are the things you can’t give them? Not to be different… Real friends… Acceptance? I know we support, encourage, and teach them to accept and embrace differences, but what do you do when you can see it still breaks their hearts?”

ADDitude Answers

We absolutely want to be compassionate, while also understanding that some of our kids do things that make others upset. For instance, an ADHD 16-year-old I was working with was telling me, ‘Everyone thinks I’m arrogant, argumentative, and annoying, even though I’m really intelligent and caring.’ So, I put him in a group with other kids and every time he saw someone misspell a word, he would reach over and say, ‘I can’t believe you don’t know how to spell that word,’ then cross it out.

I talked to him about it and he told me, ‘But that’s how I care. I show people I’m caring by correcting them.’ What he didn’t understand was that he was being rude, and his corrections came across as arrogant and annoying. So then when he would come to me and say, “I’m really sad. I don’t have a friend,” I would tell him, “Hey, I know your intentions are good, but people aren’t really getting that. So now we’ve got to think about how to communicate that with others.” Sometimes, kids have really good intentions, but the way they code their behavior does not make people see that.

At the heart of any social interaction or relationship is our awareness of ourselves and other people. Social thinking is the ability to consider your own and others’ thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and intentions. Social skills are what you use to adapt your behavior to that social thinking, to have others react and respond to you in the way that you want.

[Free Resource: 14 Ways to Help Your Child Make Friends]

Teaching your child the difference between a “thinking-about-you person” and a “just-about-me” person is critical to getting your child to perform well in social situations. A “just-about-me” person does whatever he’s thinking about. A “thinking-about-you person” is someone who asks, “What’s going on around me and what do I need to adapt to others?”

Posted by Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC
Speech therapist and language pathologist, specializing in the treatment of students with social cognitive challenges

ADDitude Answers

It breaks a momma’s heart for sure! Thankfully, my son misses a lot of the cues that he’s being brushed off, but he understands a lot of it, too. He also picks up on the insinuations from teachers that he’s lazy or “bad”– I hate that he has to go through that.

There are many things our kids could be doing to turn off their peers, like talking too much, monopolizing conversations, being immature, being bossy (even unintentionally), etc. When you stop and think about social interactions, they really are quite complicated. Many kids with ADHD just don’t have the necessary understanding of subtlety and nuance to process them fully.

[Bully-Proof Your Child]

As far as making friends, joining a social skills group could help. Here is an article that can give you more information on these kinds of groups for kids with ADHD.

Also, get him involved in activities that he enjoys—similar interests/passions can sometimes make a stronger bond that won’t be so easily broken.

Posted by Penny
community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

This is one of the most heart-breaking parts of dealing with ADHD. My daughter would make friends, but then have an episode and freak them out. After, she would wonder why so-and-so wasn’t talking to her anymore.

Plain and simple: For the neurotypical, the neuro-extraordinary, and everything in between — kids are mean. Sometimes, I remember how it was for me at about 10; I was so awkward and desperate to be liked. Being a kid is hard no matter what.

[Why Younger Friends May Be the Best Kind]

For now, all we can do is keep teaching them how to be a good friend. One day, it will happen and it will be everything they need!

Posted by calmommax2

A Reader Answers

An excellent program for my kids is Boy Scouts, which hosts lots of activities to keep them engaged and active. The structured and goal-oriented program seems to really help with their ADHD. I think sports teams were too competitive and stressful, but Scouts seems to strike the right balance for them. It can still get a little crazy, as I think eight out of ten boys in the den are medicated, but at least they understand each other.

Posted by scoutmom

A Reader Answers

This is such a sad thing for kids with ADHD. My advice is to observe his interactions with some of his peers and find out what may be causing the issue. Once you’ve pinpointed it, work on the problem with him. For example, my husband and I teach our son to patiently stand on his own and not force kids to play or interact with him. There are good and bad days, and over the years we have seen a few kids stay as friends, while others came and went. There is hope!

Posted by MPal