Reply To: Does it ever get better?


Having ADD can very much look and feel like a train wreck on repeat. I don’t think that intervening in the moment is always helpful, as it can be embarrassing and damage self-esteem. You obviously love and care for your son very much and want to protect his friendships <3, but at some point he’ll need to learn how to manage them. He’ll have to learn by trial and error. Having your support will help him bounce back. He’ll probably lose some friends, as most kids do over time, but he will make new ones.

Maybe talking with him after he struggles with a social situation would be helpful. You can’t stop the train wreck, but maybe you can help him pick up the pieces and put the train back on its tracks. He probably doesn’t even know how his actions are being perceived, let alone how they are affecting his friends. ADDers seldom know how to change our actions when we do find out we did something socially wrong. We need others to gently guide us. You could ask him questions like, “What do you think Johnny thought about the way you yelled at your sleepover? What could we have done instead?” We often struggle to see things big picture, and being able to reflect on a mistake and learn from it with a caring non-judgmental supporter can help us learn to modify our behavior in the future.

That’s why therapy with a good ADD specialist is so helpful. Medication is like putting on glasses for people with ADD. It brings things into focus. But if we don’t know where to focus, what skills we lack, or how to learn them, we continue to struggle.

Living with ADD is like being an athlete. We need coaches to teach skills and remind us to practice. We also need our family: cheerleaders to encourage us to keep going when it gets hard, keep our spirits up when we lose a game, and celebrate our victories with pride. <3

It helps too to learn how to repair the social damage. Saying “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again” never works for people with ADD. It’s an empty promise. We will definitely do it again! We didn’t mean to do it the first time. We neurologically can’t help it. But we can acknowledge that our actions hurt a friend and thank them for being patient with us as continue to try and learn. This seems to make relationships stronger in the long run. We need compassionate and understanding friends. And we are generously compassionate and understanding in return.

I think ADDers make great friends! We really have a lot to offer. We are fun, enthusiastic, adventurous, humorous, intelligent, intuitive, loyal, compassionate. Focusing on these great qualities, and encouraging them in your son will help boost his self-esteem and confidence. Confidence, coupled with some impulse-control skills will help him maintain quality friendships.

Ned Hallowell has some amazing insight into the ADD mind and has found tons of useful tips that help. I’d recommend his books Connectedness, Superparenting for ADD, and Driven to Distraction. He may have some advice that will help your son.

One last note. It sounds like you and your son had very different expectations for how the sleepover would go. Having a quick, casual conversation about what the “plan” is earlier in the day might have helped curb some of his arguing. It’ll give him the opportunity to beg to stay up all night without his friend present (saving embarrassment and the friend’s discomfort), and it gives you the opportunity to address his wishes within reason. An extra 10 minutes of game time could acknowledge the special event and give him a feeling of self-control, without disregarding the structure you’ve put in place (and he so desperately needs).

It does get better. With a lot of hard work, research, patience, cheerleading, and hope, it gets better. And the struggle is so worth it. <3