ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a condition that affects both children and adults. More often it is diagnosed in childhood but if the symptoms are more mild it may be overlooked until the child reaches adulthood. The symptoms, mild, moderate or severe, can have many different effects on the social development of the child.
Social development in people with ADHD can make childhood friendships very difficult. And because these relationships contribute to the immediate happiness of the child it is important to the long-term development of the child.
Researchers have found that children who have difficulty with their peer relationships at a young age are more at risk for anxiety disorders, behavioral and mood disorders and substance abuse as teens. Parents with children who have ADHD also report that their children are less likely to have close friends and are more likely to be picked on at school or has trouble getting along with other children.
Exactly how these behaviors interfere with peer relationships isn’t entirely understood. Psychologists theorize that those children with inattentive disorder may be perceived as shy and those who are hyperactive may be perceived as aggressive. Children who have ADHD and any other disorder face even greater challenges with their relationships with others.
But not everyone with ADHD has difficulty getting along with others. For those who do have difficulty in developing close peer relationships there are several things that parents can do to help their children through this challenge. The earlier these symptoms are recognized and interventions are started the better the chances that they will be successful.
Beginning any help with the child means that the parents recognize the importance to the child of healthy peer relationships. They can be just as important as good grades in school since they help to determine the eventual social outcome for the child.
Parents can keep up to date with the child’s teacher, school counselors and after-school leaders and maintain open lines of communication. This will help to recognize problems early in their development and a core team of people who can work together to provide support to the child as they meet these challenges.
Help your child to become involved in activities with their peers. These activities can be sports related or other group activities in which the child has some talent. These activities could be after school activities such as drama club, choir, or the school journal club.
Schools often have peer programs which pair older children and teens to provide support in the school environment. You may want to discuss this possibility with the child’s school counselor.
Parents can also maintain open lines of communication with their child so the child feels they have a safe place to communicate their disappointments and discouragement.
Parents should also be encouraged to help the child process through their social environment so that they can learn what errors may have been made in a social situation and how the behavior may be changed to correct the outcome. This can help the child to learn the cause and effect of their behavior on others.
After a social situation the parent and child can sit down to discuss both the errors and successes in the situation. They can identify what led to the error or success and figure out who was hurt by the error. Then together they can decide how to correct the mistake and together develop an alternative plan so the error doesn’t happen again.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Your Adolescent-Attention Deficity/Hyperactivity Disorder
About Kids health: ADHD and Social-Emotional Abilities
NYU Child Study Center: Facts About Children and Adolescents with ADHD
American Camp Associations: Toward an Understanding of ADHD
Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Attention Deficity/Hyperactivity Disorder
Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry: Social Functioning Difficulties in ADHD
Child Central: Social Skills and the ADHD Child
HealthyChildren: Social and Emotional Challenges in Adolescence
University of Maryland Medical Center: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder