Making Friends with ADHD: Parental Support and Practical Solutions
We all dread the idea that our child might not make friends at school, and end up standing alone at the edge of the playground, or sitting at home while their classmates enjoy birthday parties and play dates.
Unfortunately, making friends can be tricky for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), one of the most common conditions in childhood.
This is because children with ADHD struggle with some important social skills – they may talk a lot, interrupt others, and say or do things without thinking.
As a result, potential friends can become alienated or offended.
The good news is that with a little support, children with ADHD can certainly make friends who will appreciate them for their unique, lovable selves.
Playing together is a great way for children to make friends, so try scheduling a playdate with one of their classmates and make it fun by using the tips below.
Be considerate of distractions during playtime
Ever imagined what ADHD feels like? Some adults with ADHD have compared it to understeering a car – extra effort is needed, even for a simple task, to avoid trailing off.
So it’s important to make sure the room your child is playing in has as few distractions as possible that might lead to ‘understeering’. This may include turning off screens or music and reducing clutter. It could also help to create a calm space, such as their own secret den or playhouse.
Concentrating for a length of time can be a challenge too, so you might want to break up the activities into smaller, more manageable chunks. Writing out the steps or schedule will mean both children know what to expect.
Introducing toys and activities individually can help avoid overwhelming your child, and it’s worth being aware of the amount of time each activity needs. You may want to adapt games to make them quicker – for example, introducing a timer – or look for faster-paced games that don’t require turn taking such as Cobra Paw or Rapidough.
Focusing can take up a lot of energy, so make it clear that they can take breaks at any time, or consider scheduling in regular breaks.
If movement provides an outlet for your child, it’s important to give them opportunities to move. It’s even better if this can be done in a playful way that their friend can join in with.
While there is no strong evidence showing that fidget toys are especially good for children with ADHD, many parents and therapists find they are helpful.
Twiddle and Magformers Spin Plus Set were popular with our Good Toy Guide testers (and I may have them both stashed in my desk too…) – the key, however, is to find something that appeals to your child.
You could also encourage movement throughout other activities and games. The children don’t have to sit on the floor or on a chair whilst playing – try providing a ‘seat’ that encourages movement such as an exercise ball or a wobble board, or simply have the children stand instead.
Get them playing outside
According to Roberto Olivardia, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School,
“[Being outside] provides ADHD children with a more open environment to appropriately express their energy,”.
But actually, being outside is excellent for all children!
So give your child and their friend the opportunity to play outside where they can run around, jump, swing and shout without constraints and remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing – and rain just brings a new range of games to play.
Outdoor team games can be a great way to develop that bond of friendship too. You could try a scavenger hunt or just a simple game of catch.
- Reduce the stimuli in the room/environment
- Break up the play into manageable chunks
- Encourage movement
- Take the play outside
- Promote team sports
Making play fun means focusing on what your child can do, not what they can’t. By taking a considerate, playful approach, both children can enjoy their time together and your child will practise valuable social skills for the future.