Making friends — it can either be a cakewalk, or complete torture. For children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, it has always been the latter. An ADHD-diagnosed child is continually in doubt with everything they do, so establishing lasting friendships is going to be an issue for them. As a parent, how can we help our young ones create lasting friendships with others without having to tremble in fear of rejection? Learn from this article about ADHD coaching and teaching about your ADHD child in making friends.
Become The Friendship Coach
Amori Y. Mikami, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia. She is currently studying on how parents can help their ADHD-diagnosed children on how to make friends. She has been promoting the concept of friendship coaching, wherein parents will be the ones who will teach their kids about the values and importance of friendship. She had taught parents of elementary-level children about her idea, and the results were promising. Teachers who weren’t aware of the program noticed that the kids who participated played better with their peers and made new friends along the way.
In addition, Dr. Mikami also recommended other social skills techniques that parents with ADHD-diagnosed kids might find useful. It might be a quick and easy task, but helping a child make friends and establish long-lasting friendships is a pretty daunting task, to say the least. So where do you start?
Make Friends With Them First
You should always start your ADHD coaching by listening to your child. Hear them out and let them share the reason why they shy away from other kids. Once you create a positive and trusting relationship with them, they will more than likely accept your guidance. Always be empathetic with whatever your child says to you. If your child is having friendship problems, give him/her the chance to express his/her feelings before coming off with a solution, and what he/she should do differently the next time.
You should also spend time doing something fun together without having to direct and criticize your child’s behaviour. Establishing a positive relationship with your child will pay off and will even help them create friendships with other kids.
Criticize and Correct Bad Behavior once in a While
Once your child does show poor behaviour to other people and even to you, you should criticize and correct them. However, always remember to keep the ratio of positive and negative comments as high as possible. Make sure that your praises exceed your criticism by a minimum of four to one. Even in times where it’s hard to find something to praise, you should look for something positive to enlighten your child and not discourage them from making friends with others.
For instance, you see your ADHD child approaching another child in the playground. She goes up to the kid and says, “Hello,” introduces himself and says she wants to play. Then he instantly treats his new playmate like a toy, saying “let’s do this. I go first, and you stand here and wait for me to finish.”
There’s a lot of things to criticize about your child in this scenario. But instead of discouraging him right away, praise him for what he did well: initiative. Walking up and introducing himself in a friendly way is a sign that they are open to making friends with others, which is a positive sign. As for the rest, they may be a multitude of behavior issues you’d like them to change, but always be selective about what you want to choose. Select only the most important ones and always be specific with your criticism. “When you play with your friends, you should also let them enjoy the game by making their move, too.”
Actively Promote Friendship
You should take a more active role in advocating friendship with your child. Always keep in mind that kids diagnosed with ADHD make poor decisions when it comes to choosing and making friends. They often befriend someone just to boss them around, usually a younger or a weaker child. There will also be chances where they will get attracted to “bad influence,” since these kids are excited because they always get into trouble.
As a parent, you can get active and help your child in making better choices. A great way to make sure your child finds the right friends and playmates is to volunteer at his/her school and on extracurricular activities. Doing so will give you the benefit of seeing and knowing other kids, and even their parents. It’s an opportunity to establish networks and recommend friends for your child.
Make Play Dates Go Smoothly
How are you supposed to do that? Proper planning. You should put away anything that might cause conflicts before the playdate. This could be a favourite toy that your child would never want other kids to play or even touch. Some kids also have trouble with sharing video games. Stash them in a place where they can never see it, like your bedroom closet.
Plan activities that will be enough for them to leave little to no unstructured time. If your child has acted negatively in a way that’s causing trouble, give them caution and make them aware of the most appropriate behaviour.
For example, if they are being overly competitive in a board game, tell him, “if you lose, congratulate the victors and say it was a good game. Otherwise, don’t say anything.” If kids start fighting, be the enforcer. Try to distract them with snacks or other distractions.
Finally, limit the duration of the get-together. For six to seven-year-old children, an hour or playtime is already sufficient, especially if they have just become friends with this kid. For ten-year-olds, you can extend the period for another hour or two. Overall, always wait until the end while everybody is still having fun.
Supervise According to Your Child’s Age
The intensity of supervision depends mainly on the age of your child. If you are watching over a six to seven-year-old, you should always be in the same room so you can prevent any potential tantrums. For ten-year-olds, stay just within the range of your earshot and check on them from time to time to see if the kids are in need of attention. If it’s getting too quiet, it’s probably because your child has lost interest and in their playmates and are now ignoring them.
If this happens, whisper to your child if there’s something wrong. If the problem is about something you’ve already discussed, a quick reminder might do the trick. If it’s a serious behaviour issue coming from your child, then whether you’ve talked about it before or not, you should speak to them again in another room. But unless the situation is really out of hand, don’t cut the playdate just yet.
What to do After the Playdate
After your child’s playing sessions with his friend, debrief them about their experience. Give him some feedback, specifically on how he managed the behaviour that you’ve focused on before the playdate. You might give positive comments, like “it was really fair of you to congratulate your friend on winning the board game, like what we’ve talked about.”
With all the information and experience that you’ve gathered on the playdate, use it to plan the next one. Staying focused on the improvement of your child’s troubling behaviours will result in progress, and they will eventually start establishing healthy relationships with their friends and even make friends without you having to tell or supervise them.