We return again with another fabulous article in our series from Sarah Templeton of Headstuff ADHD Therapy. This time taking about ADHD and friendships with some practical advice and her experiences. Don’t forget to check out the other ADHD resources for parents and teachers on the site too.
Having nearly 6 decades of experience of my own ADHD now and working with thousands of ADHD Clients talking about this subject, I can see very clearly where it goes wrong for ADHD kids and friendships.
Do take a look at Sarah’s books, as well as this article – while you are here:
But don’t worry, and think:|
“Oh no, my child is going to be lonely and have no friends for the rest of their life”
Because, let me assure you this almost definitely is not true.
I still have several good friends I met in my very early 20s and make new friends on a very regular basis. This doesn’t mean to say I haven’t had problems with friendships over the years, and I’ve lost a couple that I deeply regret.
What might be the key issues within ADHD and friendships
Given this, these are the issues you are likely to come across with friendships and your ADHD children:
Impulsivity and thinking before you speak or act
When they are very young, it is likely to be impulsivity that causes problems in friendships. I had one 5 year-old client who used to get so excited about meeting his friends he would bite them! This was his only way of showing his excitement and joy at seeing them. But it didn’t go down too well with his friends, or their mothers!
Impulsivity can show up in other ways as well. The ADHD child telling somebody else they are stupid for doing something wrong and losing a game. Or saying anything impulsive that will upset a friend.
Wanting everything their own way
Until children get older and realise that everybody deserves to be treated fairly, young children will want everything their own way within friendships. Some very subservient friends won’t mind this, but there will be other feisty children who will also want a say in what activities/games they all get involved with that day. There could be some arguments and lost friendships due to the ADHD child wanting everything done their way and ALWAYS wanting to be in charge.
Getting bored easily
ADHD children have a low boredom threshold. They get bored much quicker than neurotypical children. So whilst a group of friends might be very happy to spend the whole afternoon playing board games, your ADHD child may have had enough of this after an hour and want to do something else. This can cause problems with friendships.
An ADHD child will most often be fearless unless they have social anxiety, which we will talk about in a moment. Most will want to push boundaries and do exciting things all the time. This doesn’t suit a lot of their friends who may well be more reserved and conscious of what is right and wrong. An ADHD child, for example, might think that breaking in to a building site and climbing all over the scaffolding is going to be huge fun. Whereas their friends may realise this could be dangerous and illegal and not want to get involved.
Social anxiety and ADHD
Let’s bring in social anxiety next. They think it up to 30% of people with ADHD, also have social anxiety. If your ADHD child is one of these, actually getting them out of the front door of the house and making friends is going to be much more of the issue.
You will find children like this tend to make their friends online. They like the comfort and security of being in their own home and meet friends through gaming in particular, but also via social media platforms.
Your concern here will be that your child doesn’t go out of the house, and have enough friends in the real world. However, it definitely isn’t unusual for an ADHD child with social anxiety to make very strong relationships via the Internet. This can go on into adulthood.
I’ve met many adults with ADHD, particularly with the coexisting condition of ASD, who are more than happy to have all their friendships online. They actually get very insulted if you think they don’t have friends.
To them, these are their real friends, and they get a lot of support from them.
Not thinking about the consequences
This can play out in a lot of ways and is why I have lost friendships.
My own examples are because of verbally saying something that I thought was hysterically funny and was actually very insensitive.
I have done this twice in my life and lost two very good friends.
Our ADHD impulsivity combined with not thinking of the consequences can be a problem. It can result in us hurting people without intending to do so.
It’s a very good idea to get your child well trained in how to apologise sincerely. This is a skill that may well come in extremely handy!
However, there is good news as well.
ADHD kids can be massively popular. This is because they are funny. They won’t mind saying something outrageous when others wouldn’t dream. Finally, they are also likely to be the centre of attention at any party or event. They are known for being witty, telling amusing tales and jokes and never being boring.
How to help with friendships
Something I have noticed with a lot of clients and also especially applies to me. I haven’t kept any friends from school, but all the good friends I have have been gained through shared activities. My love has always been amateur dramatics and acting. I joined a drama club when I was 17, and some of my friends date right back to then.
If your child isn’t making friends at school, don’t panic too much about it. Instead, join them up to some clubs for anything they fancy having a go at. That might be ballet, drama, theatre school, football, cricket, rugby or whatever they are interested in.
I can almost guarantee, no I CAN guarantee, this is where they are going to meet their lifelong friends. ADHD people get a lot out of friends who share the same passions as them.
It’s all about their interests
I’ve spoken to trillions of ADHD clients about this. Nearly all of them haven’t kept many, if any, friends from school. However, I ask them if they have friends at the cricket club, or street dance classes; the answer is always a definite yes.
It seems for our brain that we need to be friends with people who share our passions. We need them to get excited about what we get excited about. This is most definitely my strongest bit of advice. Don’t panic if they don’t make friends at school. They will as soon as they start going to activities where they find people with a shared passion.
I really hope that you like this article from Sarah. Don’t forget to check out her website, and her books as we have already mentioned.
For more fabulous articles from Sarah, check these out:
And some off of KiddyCharts as well:
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