Making Friends

“My Child’s Friends Are All Younger — and That’s Okay.”

The social maturity of children with ADHD tends to lag behind that of their peers, which may impede or sabotage same-aged friendships. In a recent survey, parents shared how friendships with younger children have benefited their kids with ADHD.

Children school in medical masks play at a quarantine playground during a coronavirus pandemic 2021
Children school in medical masks play at a quarantine playground during a coronavirus pandemic 2021

Does your child with ADHD gravitate toward younger playmates? Remember, ADHD is a developmental disorder in which brain maturation is delayed. This mean’s your child’s social maturity may lag a few years behind that of their peers. They may not sense how they are perceived by classmates and they may commit social blunders without realizing it. As a result, it’s not unusual for children with ADHD to form solid friendships with younger children.

In a recent survey, ADDitude asked parents, “Does your child with ADHD form friendships with primarily younger children? What do they take away from these friendships?” According to the responses, younger playmates tend to be less judgmental of ADHD behaviors and, therefore, help increase social confidence. Find other readers’ observations below and share your child’s experience with making friends in the Comments section below.

Social Interactions with ADHD

“My son has just turned 12 and is about a year behind his peers in maturity. He has a great group of friends that are mixed ages. He also has a few younger brothers and two younger cousins with whom he plays regularly. As his mom, I see the difference in his interactions with all groups. At times, he wants to be just like everyone else his age and to feel confident and independent, but he ends up covering his inability to understand social cues by being the group clown. He thrives when he is the bigger kid showing the younger kids ‘the ropes’ and being his goofy self.”

“My 9-year-old plays most comfortably with 6- and 7-year-olds – he likes leading the pack. They appreciate his wild creativity, which can be a bit much for his same-aged peers. Having said that, neighborhood kids of all ages seek him out when they want to listen to a good story.”

“My 11-year-old daughter has been encouraged by her 9-year-old friend to engage in make-believe games with dolls and toys. This area of play is something she missed; she also has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and observed rather than engaged for many years. It has helped her creative imagination to consider life scenarios and social situations. It has also fed her ability to develop her own imaginative skills for writing stories.”

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

“My son befriended the youngest daughter of our neighbors when he was 6 and she was 3. We would joke that they were siblings. She a great model for brushing off disappointment, and he helped her with schoolwork in return. I was sad to see them move after three fun years.”

“Many of my daughter’s friends in the neighborhood are 1 or 2 years younger. She is very active and loves playing outdoors with them. These kids are not in her class at school and don’t judge her.”

“My daughter made friends with several other students who also struggle socially. Luckily, she is oblivious to the drama and negativity that orbit the girls her age.”

“My son is able to make friends with kids older and younger than him, but his hyperactivity manifests when we have friends over for dinner and he blurts out rude comments to me in order to get them to laugh.”

[Read This Next: Dear ADDitude, My Child Doesn’t Have Any Friends]

“My daughter loves younger children and they love her. She knows how to make them laugh with slapstick humor and other silliness. The only issue is she tends to be too bossy with them.”

“My son has always been drawn to kids who are one to three years older – their patience is much higher than his peers. They can create boundaries he is more likely to respect, and he looks up to them. He actually shows more anxiety and emotional dysregulation with kids who are younger than him, maybe because he feels the pressure of responsibility.”

Improving Social Interactions with ADHD: Next Steps


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