Does your ADD child have a lot of friends? Are they good friends, or just casual ones?
When I was a kid, I was very shy. My family moved around a lot, too, so it always seemed that I was the new kid at school. It was hard for me to make friends, partially for those reasons, but also because of my ADD. Because I had trouble paying attention, and was easily distracted, I often missed bits of conversations as well as subtle social cues like facial expressions, body language, and vocal pitch. (If you don’t have ADD, you most likely don’t even realize that you are picking up on such cues, and if you do have ADD, you might not be aware that you’re missing them.)
I have a very vivid memory of my first day in 6th grade; I was the new kid again. I was sitting on the gym floor, trying hard to concentrate on what the teacher was saying. There was a girl next to me who was trying to get to know me, but I was having trouble trying to divide my concentration between her and the teacher. I realized at some point that she had asked me a question, but I had no idea what it was. Rather than ask her to repeat it (a logical solution), I simply said I didn’t know. The look on her face was incredulous: “You mean you don’t know where you live?” You can’t imagine how I felt. And, no, we never became friends.
I don’t think my children have ever had any such mortifying moments, and I hope yours haven’t either. My son did go through a stage that I called “bringing home strays”. He would befriend the kid no one else would play with, and on more than one occasion, we found out why.
My oldest daughter is much like me; she’s had friends over the years, but in general her best friend is her boyfriend. (Just to clarify – my best friend is my husband; I don’t have a boyfriend.) My two younger children, however, are different. Each of them has 1 or 2 friends that they have had since they were small, and they manage to make new friends as well.
Sometimes kids with ADD make lots of friends because they become the clown, the entertainer – often to hide the struggles they have with their symptoms. Some, like my son, adopt strays, because I guess, they feel like misfits, too. If they are exceptionally lucky, they find someone who understands them, takes the time to get to know them, and accepts them for who they are. Those are the best friends of all.
If you’ve got a child who seems to be having trouble making friends, find an opportunity to observe them from the sidelines the next time they are in a social situation. Are they missing social cues, acting inappropriately – being too loud or too silly, for instance – hanging back? Sometimes someone like a teacher or a sports coach can provide some insight.
Once you have an idea of what the problem might be, you can find ways to gently provide suggestions. One great solution is to provide more opportunities for social interaction, especially if you can do so in a way that plays into your child’s natural interests. For instance, a kid who’s big on the outdoors and knows about fishing, hiking, etc, is liable to be a big hit at camp.
Whatever you do, don’t force it. Some kids just aren’t the type to have a lot of friends. That’s OK, as long as they’re OK with it.