Reply To: Finding Your Tribe…Long Post

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Penny Williams

A few things came to mind as I read your post.

1. It is very hard for kids with ADHD to make and keep friends. In 4th grade, his social skills are probably more like 1st or 2nd grade, because ADHD is a developmental disability. If there is a guidance counselor at the school, I would ask him or her to intervene and help him create relationships. We’ve used guidance counselors to help with this several times over the years.

Helping Kids Make Friends

2. Since it’s a private school, you cannot force them to accommodate him (demanding that you be there for your son to participate should not have happened, but private schools get a very, very loose leash).

3. Stress is very detrimental to our kids. They are already more stressed in the school environment. Adding more circumstances that are additional stressors may be doing more harm than good. I decided long ago for my own son that his happiness, comfort, and self-esteem are my top priority for his school experience, not academics and not good grades. He has a gifted IQ, but he also has ADHD, ASD, dysgraphia, written expression disorder, and severe executive functioning deficits. All of that makes it extremely hard for him to make decent grades in inclusion classes. Basically, we decided that his mental health was our #1 concern and academics could fall where they may somewhere behind that. My son does learn, by the way, he just can’t show it in the ways mass education expects, so his grades don’t reflect it. Jerome Schultz’s book, Nowhere to Hide, is a fantastic read on school stress and the effects on our kids.

Why School Stress Is Toxic for Children

4. I also learned a long time ago that the grass isn’t greener in other schools. My kid is still a square peg trying to be shoved in a tiny round hole, no matter what school he attends (unless it’s a school for kids with ADHD/LD, but we don’t have that opportunity in our town). We tried 2 different charter schools and a small private school. All were the top 3 worst school years. After the last one (6th grade), where he was so stressed at school it was leading to self-harm for the first and only time in his life, I vowed that we would stay in public school and I would not consider any other schools, ever. He’s just not good at school, and that’s ok. So, I share that story to say that I did question if other schools were better and tried many over the years and it was never better. You have to be very mindful about your child as a whole when choosing a school for a child with ADHD.

5. Your son may not be able to connect with more kids at school. In the classroom, kids are randomly placed together. They may not have similar interests or congruent personalities. Getting involved in scouts or clubs in areas of interest for him outside of school will likely afford him a much easier time bonding with peers and forging relationships, because they start out with similar interests. My son didn’t have any real, true friends until 8th grade. 🙁 He’s really into gaming, technology, robotics, etc. When he started seeking out and connecting with those kids, he made a group of 4 other friends and it has been so rewarding for him. One day I asked how 8th grade was going and he said, “I finally have friends now. REAL friends who come up to me in the hallway and talk to me first, before I see them, because they WANT to talk to me.” I teared up. It was a long, hard road, but he did get there.

6. That birthday party outburst was so unfortunate. And it’s done — there’s no changing it. I think seeking out groups with shared interests will help turn things around in the friendship department. It’s not ideal that he doesn’t have friends at school day-to-day, but it helps. Studies show that happiness is somewhat dependent on having some quality relationships and bonds with others, not on the quantity of friends.

ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism