The second post in our series on ADHD, this article looks at strategies to help your son build social skills and maintain healthy friendships.
Your son's day is packed with social interactions. Whether he's working on an assignment with classmates, seeing peers between lessons, eating lunch in the dining hall, or meeting with a teacher for math help, your son has an abundance of relationships to maintain. For children with ADHD, supporting these relationships becomes increasingly difficult due to their impulsive, hyperactive, and disruptive behavior.
We believe that social challenges don't have to hold your son back from making friends and building a healthy social network. Below are three social challenges children with ADHD face, and the strategies to overcome them:
Social Challenge 1: Making Friends
Making friends is no easy feat for any child. According to ADDitude Magazine, it's especially hard for children with ADHD since they don't have an accurate sense of how others view them.(1) Without realizing it, their hyperactive or impulsive actions receive negative feelings from their peers.
Strategy: Encourage Group Activities
The importance of friendship cannot be emphasized enough. Meaningful friendships bring compassion, fun, focus, and a positive influence into your son's life. When children with ADHD are incorporated into group activities, a sense of group morale and support sinks in. Encourage your son to:
- Compete on a team sport. Being a part of a team will not only teach your son the value of hard work and discipline but will also instill the importance of working together, sacrificing, and handling victory and disappointment.
- Have a friend get-together. Volunteer to take your son and his friends out to places such as the movies, the batting cages, or the park to shoot hoops.
- Join a club or organization. Groups such as Boy Scouts of America® and Junior Achievement® empower young men to be leaders while building their personal and professional skills and goals.
As you begin to invest time in these activities, we suggest monitoring your son's interactions. In the early stages of improving social skills, old habits such as picking fights, arguing, not sharing, or being insensitive to feelings may appear. Be ready to intervene. Work with your son to identify what happened, and find a solution to correct his behavior moving forward.
Social Challenge 2: Communicating with Peers
All relationships require appropriate communication. Children with ADHD struggle in this area from their tendency to not ask for permission, interrupt, and break eye contact. These methods of communication are frustrating to other children.
Strategy: Practice Positive Conversation
Role-playing social situations with your son will incorporate favorable communication into his everyday life. Only role-play one behavior at a time to keep your son focused. For example, if your son is constantly interrupting his teachers, classmates, and family members:
- Role-play the situation. Take the place of your son, and have your son act as one of his classmates. Pick a scenario, such as talking during lunch, and begin a pretend conversation. When it is your son's turn to speak, interrupt him. Repeat this behavior multiple times for your son to comprehend his behavior.
- Develop a new way to communicate. When your son understands how interrupting feels, role-play ways to improve. Practice waiting for the other person to pause or ask a question before speaking.
- Recognize progress. When you notice your son's improvement through conversations at home, make it a point to congratulate him on his progress. The encouragement will motivate him to keep up the good work.
Use role-playing for any interaction. Health Central suggests checking in with your son's teachers and coaches, as they may have insight on different interactions to work on.(2)
Social Challenge 3: Maintaining Relationships
Research from the Massachusetts General Hospital shows that children with ADHD have a low tolerance for frustration, contributing to demanding and bossy behavior.(3) This makes it hard for ADHD children to develop and nurture friendships.
Strategy: Model Appropriate Manners
It's common for children with ADHD to become over-stimulated around their peers, which leads to intrusive mannerisms. Display appropriate behavior, at home and in public, to set an example of how to act in social situations. By carrying out the exact requests you're asking from your son (including "please," "thank you," waiting your turn to speak, and listening to others), he will start to incorporate this behavior toward classmates.
At Grand River Academy, young men just like your son are finding the support and guidance to work past their social challenges. Students thrive in the close-knit community found on GRA's campus. Life-long relationships are built through learning, extracurricular activities, team sports, and weekend trips.
Discover how friendships are flourishing at Grand River Academy.
1 Gay, Edelman. ADDitude Magazine. "Help Your ADHD Child Make Friends." Accessed August 13, 2015. http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/924.html.
2 Bailey, Eileen. Health Central. "Role Playing to Teach Children with ADHD Social Skills." Accessed August 14, 2015. http://www.healthcentral.com/adhd/children-252905-5.html.
3 Massachusetts General Hospital. "Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)." Accessed August 13, 2015. http://www2.massgeneral.org/schoolpsychiatry/info_adhd.asp.