Helping Kids With ADHD Make Friends — 5 Minutes for Special Needs

Helping Kids With ADHD Make Friends

by Laurie


“They don’t want to play with me!” She yells, stomping up the stairs and throwing her book bag down the hall. As is my daily habit, I wait until she blows off steam and it’s calm in her room again. Then I walk in, plop on the floor next to her where she’s creating an angry-looking art project, and prompt, “Tell me about that.”

The details are different each time, but the gist is this: my daughter who has bipolar and ADHD really struggles to have friends.

  • She misses social cues
  • She gets in people’s personal space
  • Her mood swings leave friends confused about her
  • She’s loud and demonstrative (and because of development issues, seems a little clumsy)
  • She’s chronologically, but not developmentally their age.

How can we help our kids work around their challenges and be a friend?

Role play. Re-do the situation that happened that day – the one that was upsetting. Take turns being your child and the other one, handling it a few different ways until something seems like a good fit for your child.

Talk about friendship and being a friend. Talk about your own friends and what you like about them. Talk about times you’ve screwed up and missed a cue, said or did something unfriendly and how you worked through it. “Notice” (out loud) when you see your child or their friends/siblings doing something friendly. Help them see in what ways they are a good friend and what they could work on.

Ask questions. Find out what about playing with, working together or talking to friends is hard for them. Sometimes there’s an easy work-around. For my daughter, she gets upset at friends who don’t follow the rules (and she really REALLY keeps track of those instances). So we’ve found ways that she can have jobs at school and in social groups where she’s teaching new people how to do things. It helps her relate pleasantly in a way that honors her sense of structure.

Try new things. If having the same conversation about friendliness and social skills isn’t working, stop having it! The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results. Try something different – have your child write a note to a friend, or if they’re a gift-giver, bring a little gift they made at home. Read a book on friendship in your child’s class. Use reverse psychology (“You’re right, you’ll never have friends. People dislike you so much, if we wanted to go get your favorite frozen yogurt right now, they wouldn’t even let you in the store. I guess we can’t go do that….”)

Trust your child… and yourself. It won’t always be this way. They will mature, adapt, find coping strategies and make gains in this area. Celebrate the gains. Give yourself a pat on the back for walking the heart-breaking road with them all this time. And speak life-giving encouragement into them as you go.

What has worked with your own child as they learned about friendship? What would you add to this list?


Email Author    |    Website About Laurie

I'm a wife and mom of four girls - two with bipolar, ADHD and developmental delays. It's a daily journey to live this life well and help my girls do the same. As a speaker and life coach, I'm committed to helping other parents thrive in this wild ride too!

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1 aj November 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Great ideas. I have an ADHD boy who has some of the same struggles. i found I struggle to understand his problem sometimes because his trouble is also interpreted by him. I have gone to his school on more than one occasion to observe him on the playground. It really helped to see the situation in person to help trouble shoot with him. i noticed certain kids making him particularly upset even though that was not who he had reported about. it was usually the next kid that he was more impatient with likely because of the first interaction. I highly recommend shadowing your kid if you can.

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