8 min read

Need to Know Strategies for Having ADHD and Making New Friends

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  1. Having ADHD and making new friends seems to be something that never gets any easier. With the start of each new school year, the same worries always seems to come to mind. For many parents, you might wonder, will my child make any friends at school this year?

You want the best for your kids, and perhaps because of your child’s social awkwardness, you have concerns they may feel lonely and isolated. We understand your fears and concerns. Your child probably feels the difficulty, as well, and wonders about how new social interactions will go.

While we can’t provide any one stop shop or quick fix to make having ADHD and making new friends super easy, we believe we can provide some strategies to help. In this article, we provide some tried and true guidance on navigating the social world. This guide works well for both students themselves trying to learn and parents trying to help.

We hope you can use some of these pointers to help ease the difficulties with having ADHD and making new friends. Remember, though, not everyone responds in the same way, and making strong friendships takes time. With persistence and patience, though, working on improving your social skills will surely pay off.

Discuss Social Interactions with your Kids

Having ADHD and making new friends can be challenging and difficult no matter your age, but it can be particularly difficult for young kids. Kids have so much to learn and have so many new experiences on a daily basis. Sometimes, they just take longer to grasp concepts than teenagers or adults. After all, everything is new to them.

Many children with ADHD won’t take quickly to social interactions. In fact, difficulty with social interactions can act as an early indicator of ADHD. For parents, this means that you need to take extra measures to discuss and talk about social interactions with your kids.

You need to help your child with ADHD learn how to engage better with his peers. This means that you should discuss interactions after they happen. When you see your child interacting with another kid, afterwards ask him how he thought the interaction went.

You can then point out instances where your child might have ignored the other kid’s emotions or words. Try to coach your child on tips on improving interactions. Show them examples of social interactions that go well and point out instances where the parties engaged positively with one another.

The goal here shouldn’t be to shame or chastise your child. Rather, you want to help your child become discerning about their own social interactions. Overtime, they will learn to evaluate social interactions on their own and start learning on their own.

Find an Older Mentor

Since having ADHD and making new friends presents so many challenges for younger kids, one option to consider is seeking out an older child to help mentor your kid. You could see if a neighbor in the grade above lives nearby and would want to look out for your child at school. Any older friend of the family might be a good fit. What you want, though, is someone close in age, slightly older, who attends the same school and can follow up and check in when you can’t.

This older mentor could be another child with ADHD or just an older friend. They don’t have to spend all their time with your child, but you do want them to act in a similar role as you would. You want them to provide a good example of social interactions and help provide correction and guidance when your child seems lost.

Mentors work great in many settings. In fact, we could probably all benefit from either being mentored or acting as a mentor to someone else. We could all stand to learn quite a bit through such a close teacher-student relationship with someone we can respect. For these reasons, a mentor might act as a good fit for helping your child with ADHD make new friends.

If you find it difficult identifying a mentor you already know, speak with your child’s school. The school might have some ideas of other kids that could help out. Some schools or libraries might already have a mentorship program set up for kids that you could get connected with. Look for these types of opportunities and see if a mentorship would be right for your child.

Encourage One-on-One Playdates

A common theme of people with ADHD involves having feelings of being overwhelmed. This could occur at school, at home, at work, or in any new environment. Part of ADHD includes having a mind that moves so quickly from one thing to another that many people struggle to keep up in environments with many distractions or demands.

When taking this and applying it towards having ADHD and making new friends, you want to try to limit the feelings of being overwhelmed. One of your best options for doing this might be to keep social interactions to one-on-one opportunities. Many children with ADHD get lost in large group settings and struggle to follow or keep up with group conversations. Instead of trying to force your kid to interact in these settings, encourage them towards one-on-one playdates and settings instead.

We don’t want you to hear us say to avoid group settings altogether. In fact, we believe group settings can provide wonderful social opportunities for kids. We would encourage group settings, but we would caution that they can possibly cause more stress. To limit that stress, you can use one-on-one playdates to help your child get to know more kids on a one-to-one basis.

After your child learns and knows another kid, you can then introduce more kids into the group. The comfortability that comes with one-on-one time helps eliminate some of the hurdles that come with having ADHD and making new friends. One-on-one time then can act as an easier entrance into a larger social environment for your child.

Address Teasing and Bullying if You See it

We know social interactions can present difficulties for people with ADHD. We also know that for similar reasons, ADHD and bullying typically go hand in hand. Depending on the situation and environment, the bullying could be other kids picking on your ADHD child or even the other way around. A child with ADHD can act and oftentimes does act as a bully.

Many times, at the heart of a bullying interaction is a misunderstanding of how a social interaction should occur. Perhaps, one party doesn’t understand the other, or the bully just doesn’t feel like they fit in anywhere. Whatever the circumstances or reasons, bullying simply cannot be tolerated at any age or in any situation.

As a parent, you need to keep a vigilant eye on bullying involving your child. You should make sure that they neither bully other kids nor have other kids bully them. As we have established having ADHD and making new friends is hard enough. Adding bullying and peer pressure into the mixture only makes life more complicated and stressful for your kids.

To keep bullying at a far distance, you need to keep your channels of communication open. You need to communicate regularly with the adults in your child’s life. This would include teachers, school administrators, coaches, and community leaders. Talk to these people about the interactions they see involving your child. Learn from them whether there might exist signs of bullying or teasing going on. Work with them if something does arise and seek to resolve the concerns as quickly as possible.

Bullying creates a distorted understanding of ourselves and others. Not only that, it limits our ability to engage socially with our environments. Make certain that you use every resource you can to make sure that it does not happen involving your child.

Encourage Your Child to Pursue Their Interests

Having ADHD and making new friends sometimes falls flat because your child fails to connect their interests with others. When your child can’t see the commonalities between themselves and other kids, they might just want to give up and keep to themselves. Instead of defaulting to playing alone, you should encourage your child to specifically seek out other kids with similar interests.

Instead of tossing your child into a classroom where they have no idea of where to start a conversation, give them an interest point to begin a conversation around. For instance, when you drop your child off at school, you can start conversations for them. If you notice another kid with a backpack with pictures of toys that your child likes, strike up a conversation and pull your child in. After you get the children connected on something they both like, the social interaction follows easier for both kids.

Similarly, you can try taking your child to specific events for things that interest them. If they like a particular book or TV series, try to connect to community events that may highlight those things. At these events then, you can connect your child with other kids that share the same interests. After meeting, you can then encourage them to communicate further around other things they have in common. Once your child sees how easy it can be to connect with interests, they may start to try to strike up conversations with more and more kids.

Look into Team Sports and Activities

As a final tip for having ADHD and making new friends, we strongly encourage you to look into team sports and activities. This, at first, might seem as the opposite of our recommendation for encouraging one-on-one time. We don’t believe so, though.

Rather, we see these recommendations as two sides of the same coin. While you should encourage one-on-one time that shouldn’t be the only way that your child connects with their world. You also need to help guide them into larger social settings. The best way to do this then would be with structured group settings such as team sports.

Team sports and activities work great because there exists a structure and routine for your child to plug into. Your child doesn’t have to make up how they will interact with their teammates. Rather, the coaches, other players, and parents will help guide those interactions and help teach your child how to interact better.

In fact, most all of team sports can be viewed as one large learning opportunity. Team sports or community activities can teach responsibility, teamwork, dependability, and hard work among other things. Learning how to make and keep friends just puts the cherry on top.

If you try team sports and you find that it’s just not right for your child, consider other group community activities. Maybe they might be interested in theater or art or chess instead. You can consider community groups such as boy or girl scouts or look into things like debate club or a board game group. You have plenty of options if you just look around you. Use your imagination and your knowledge of your child’s interests to find structured group settings that could help them improve their overall social understanding.

Having ADHD and Making New Friends Doesn’t Have to Feel Impossible

If you learn anything from this article, we hope that you take away that having ADHD and making new friends aren’t completely incompatible. If you see your child struggle on a regular basis with social interactions, know that it doesn’t have to always be this way. Many kids and adults with ADHD struggle with social interactions. Just as many, though, over time learn and improve new social skills to make friends and feel more comfortable in social environments.

If you find yourself concerned for your child’s social wellbeing, start working with them to improve social skills and empathy. With constant communication and work, you soon will start to see an improvement. Over time, your input as a parent will even diminish as your child takes on more and more self-learning and adaptation.

Ultimately, having ADHD and making new friends doesn’t have to feel impossible. Using these strategies and other tools online, you can begin to make social settings less scary. Start working with your child today to help them feel better about fitting in and making friends wherever they find themselves.