Making Friends

Help for Socially Immature Kids with ADHD

It’s not uncommon for kids to struggle with making new friends. But ADHD can cause specific immature behaviors, causing kids to be an outcast amongst peers. Learn how praise and getting involved in activities can help.

Kids with ADHD learn how to make friends on the playground by sharing the cargo net
Kids with ADHD learn how to make friends on the playground by sharing the cargo net

The problem: The social maturity of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) may be a few years behind that of their peers. In addition, they have difficulty reading verbal and physical social cues, misinterpreting remarks, or not getting jokes or games. Thus, their responses and reactions are often inappropriate, and it may be difficult to make friends their own age.

The reason: ADHD is a developmental disorder in which brain maturation is delayed. The student’s development may also be uneven. Students may behave appropriately in some situations but not in others, leading some unenlightened adults to believe “they can behave when they want to.”

The obstacles: Children with ADHD are usually not aware of how immature or off-base they may seem to peers and adults. They cannot adequately read other people’s responses to their behavior. Desperate for positive attention, they may try behavior that is outrageous, funny, or negative, mistakenly believing it will gain them friends and respect. They may be ostracized by their peers and singled out by teachers, which hurts their self-esteem.

Solutions in the classroom

Understanding the developmental level of your ADHD student is critical. While a child’s academic performance may be up to par, socially he or she may lag several years behind the rest of the class.

  • Do not expect the child to behave as responsibly or rationally as his classmates. Thinking of him as two or three years younger than the group will help you better understand and respond to his needs.

[Get This Free Download: 14 Ways to Help Your Child With ADHD Make Friends]

  • Never embarrass or humiliate an ADHD child in your classroom for off-target social behavior. Whatever their maturity level, children with ADHD often don’t learn social skills “naturally.” These skills have to be taught.
  • Work privately with the student to provide appropriate words and phrases to use with peers, and practice them one-on-one repeatedly. Provide opportunities for the student to work with small groups, and monitor interactions closely to minimize difficulties with peers.
  • In some special-needs classes and schools, teachers post “emotion” drawings or photos on the wall, displaying a variety of facial expressions with words describing what they mean (“Angry,” “Sad,” “Surprised”). These visual reminders help ADHD students interpret situations that occur in life. The rest of the class does not have to know that the drawings are only for your ADHD students.
  • Praise the child in front of peers for work that’s well done. Increased self-esteem and peer recognition can occur when a student’s special skills or talents are highlighted and shared with the group. The child will not have to resort to antics and off-target remarks to get the attention he needs.

[Click to Read: Someone to Play With – Finding Friends for My Child]

Solutions at home

Adjust your expectations to recognize that your child’s understanding and behaviors are often those of a much younger child. With this knowledge in mind, try to give your child directions or instructions that a child perhaps two years younger could understand and accomplish easily.

  • Identify your child’s strengths and interests by providing opportunities to explore special gifts and talents. Expose him or her to music, various sports, art, cooking, or any other hobby that can lead to mastery and a greater sense of self.
  • Be a coach to your child by role-playing and rehearsing everyday situations and appropriate responses. Exhibit appropriate behaviors yourself, and discuss with your child social situations in your own life and how you decided to respond.
  • If possible, locate a social skills remediation group in your area and enroll your child so he can practice in a safe environment.
  • Children with ADHD are often great playmates and babysitters to younger children. In such situations they can exercise their positive caring traits while not being threatened by peer relationships that don’t match up.
  • Get involved in your child’s activities if the adults in charge don’t understand the reason for your child’s immaturity. Many parents of ADHD kids volunteer to lead Scout troops, coach Little League, or supervise community service efforts to be with their child.

[Read This Next: The Friendship Guide for Kids with ADHD (and Their Parents, Too)]


SUPPORT ADDITUDE
Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.

Updated on September 15, 2020

4 Related Links

  1. ” ADHD is a developmental disorder in which brain maturation is delayed.” I seriously have ADHD and I’m so much more mature than almost all the kids my age. Maturity is about things you have experienced. Having ADHD doesn’t always mean you’re immature.

  2. “social maturity” What is this??
    I regard it as conforming to the current social nonsense.
    Stop and think for a moment — most social expectations are illogiocal, and many are almost dangerous.

    My few friends and I from school concluded that keeping a distance from the social norm was a good idea.
    One friend explained to his sociology lecurers that they had it all wrong, so they adopted his approach. Later he was designing computers at a large computer company.
    I went to a very conformist school, and as far as I know, I am the only one in my year to have been to university.
    Another close friend migrated and did well for herself.

    Does social maturity really mean conforming?

  3. Now you are making me annoyed.
    > Adjust your expectations to recognize that your child’s understanding and behaviors are often those of a much younger child. With this knowledge in mind, try to give your child directions or instructions that a child perhaps two years younger could understand and accomplish easily <<
    Or try being direct with instructions. Hmmph

    I have worked at a place with an army officer. Their instructions are excellent, because they are direct, no unnecessary words, and unambiguous.
    "Put these boxes up on that shelf"

    Many years ago, when I was 10 years old, I witnessed social confusion when social expectations were not met in a so-called contest.
    It was not really a contest, but an event to reinforce the current social hierarchy.
    At home that evening, I discussed this with my father who explained the situation.

    Why would a normal sensible person engage in this nonsense?
    Does joining in this type of event show social maturity, or a need to conform, or a need to belong? I reckon it shows social immaturity.

  4. >>Whatever their maturity level, children with ADHD often don’t learn social skills “naturally.” These skills have to be taught. <<

    Do you really mean that people with ADHD or ADD need to become like neuro typical people?
    Surely this is destructive. Is it as bad as the old days when left-handed children had to learn to use their right hand and be so-called normal and not bedevilled?

    When I was in my teens and twenties, one social norm was to get so drunk that the next day, you could not remember what happened. I was often teased by people who thought that was a good idea. To me, they announced their stupidity, and I avoided them.
    This could be a variation on 'The trash takes itself out'.

Leave a Reply