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How can I help my daughter with ADHD mend a broken friendship?

January 25, 2013 | By | 1 Reply Continue Reading
A mother is concerned about the impact of her daughter’s ADHD diagnosis on her friendships.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

My daughter with ADHD has exhibited some bad behavior in the last two weeks that have taken a toll on her friendship with her best friend. I believe she has learned a lesson and will try to be more in control of her emotions but impulsivity is one of her issues.

She is very troubled by the damage she has done to the relationship and I want to help her mend things. Can you give me some help on helping her mend this friendship and helping her develop friendships going forward?  I feel like she is her own worst enemy, all she wants is to have friends but her impulsive and sometimes mean behavior is making it difficult.

Signed, Heather

ANSWER

Hi Heather,

You haven’t mentioned your daughter’s age. If she is old enough to handle her friendships on her own (school age and above), you can coach her about what to say and help her learn the steps she needs to take to apologize to her friend.

You might even help her draft a note expressing her regret over her behavior and asking for forgiveness. If she and her friend are old enough to understand Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, you might suggest that she explain that it is sometimes difficult for her to control her emotions and ask her friend to help remind her if she makes a similar mistake again.

If your child is young, you might want to speak to the other girl’s mom, explain your daughter’s diagnosis and ask for her help in getting the girls together to remedy the problems that occurred. Additionally, you may need to be around to monitor their play.

Unfortunately, it is common for children with ADHD to have difficulties making and keeping friends. Everyone deserves a second chance (and more), but if this is a recurring problem, you might want to consult with the mental health professional that is treating your daughter. These behaviors may suggest that she isn’t being treated optimally in terms of medication and/or behavioral treatment like social skills training.

It’s great that you recognize  she needs your help to prevent her from becoming isolated socially.

Hope this helps.

My best , Irene

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Category: Helping children deal with friendship problems

Comments (1)

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  1. Amy says:

    I’ve counseled a lot of children with ADHD and their parents are there were a few things about your letter than jumped out at me. Namely, that I’m not sure what ADHD has to do with the problem. Yes, having ADHD can mean children have poor impulse control, boundaries or behaviors within relationships, but between two children negotiating a friendship, that’s not an excuse. Your daughter behaved however she did, and that’s the impact the other child felt whether the reason was ADHD, poor relationship skills, or simply she was having a bad day. Kids don’t care. The only exception might be if there was a temporary reason (upset due to a death in the family, having just heard her parents were divorcing). Situational angst is something school age children and teens have the cognitive ability to process and empathize with.
    You and your daughter hope your daughter has learned from the experience, and she may have, although she will continue to have issues with impulsive behavior (or words) as part of her condition, because that’s a feature of the disorder. She should not set herself up for perfection, since mastering this over one fractured friendship is an unrealistic expectation.
    I know you want to jump in and help fix the situation, but this isn’t what will benefit your daughter in the long term. Your daughter will benefit the most from (wirh your encouragement), problem solving ways to resolve the situation. Resolution may not mean that the friendship is resumed, but it may mean she avoids similar problems going forward.
    If the kids are preschool age; you may want to talk to her teacher to find out how she perceives your daughter as a friend. You are biased, all parents are.
    For kids between 5-10, teachers can also be a great, unbiased resource about the social behavior of your child. Kids with ADHD are often challenging friends, because they sometimes are socially less mature than their peers. If you find out which areas are lacking, you can work in the skills in the family, even role play situations, use dolls or stuffed animals for younger kids.
    If this appears to be a repeated issue, therapy can be a helpful tool for learning appropriate social skills. This is often more effective than a parent’s help because kids can be more defensive with parents and this can set up a power struggle. With therapy the parent can stay in the role of comforter, not critic.
    For pretend and older kids, they can often problem solve themselves, solutions more practical than adults.
    Sometimes relationships can’t be fixed and although painful, this provides a lesson for your daughter. Kids learn more from their mistakes than perfection. Experience is the best education for a child with ADHD, even though it can be painful. She has the opportunity to learn respect for her ex-friend’s boundaries, handling disappointment, thinking before she speaks or reacts, grace under sadness, refraining from retaliation, patience. I know how much it hurts to see her suffer, but your intervention could not only fail to fix the problem, but could unwittingly set your daughter up for future relationship difficulties with the expectation that every misstep is fixable.
    I’m sorry she’s having a hard time and that you are. Try to keep in mind that you want to ensure any lessons she learns from either of your behaviors helps, not hurts future friendships..

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