Social situations present a major challenge for children and individuals with ADHD. It is roughly estimated that about 50-60% of children with ADHD have experienced rejection from their peers by the time they reach adolescence. Research has shown that these problems continue well into adulthood, impeding the development of important social skills. To fully understand the complexities of ADHD, it is important to point out the social problems people with ADHD generally have, and how their loved ones can deal with them in a positive way.
Social Problems in People with ADHD
ADHD and Anger
ADHD has been called a “disorder of anger and aggression”, and it is not hard to learn why. Defining characteristics of ADHD – like an inability to maintain focus, follow directions, or exhibit a sense of self control can easily rub others the wrong way.
In difficult situations, people who do not understand ADHD and its side effects are prone to react with anger. Unfortunately negative behaviour can often escalate the situation, exacerbating the level of anger on both sides.
Anger is not the answer
Anger is the build-up of negativity and frustration. According to psychologist Taryn Linacre from the Perth Brain Centre, people with ADHD require a supportive environment to thrive. As such, yelling and other threatening behaviour is not encouraged. Anger management sessions can offer a positive long term solution. Strategies like counting and breathing exercises are good examples of positive reinforcement that can defuse tension and create an environment for a productive discussion.
Additionally, parents and caretakers of people with ADHD can work with educators in schools to promote the practice of anger management techniques, while stressing the importance of using positive reinforcement to deal with ADHD.
It takes a certain level of maturity and patience to understand the special needs of ADHD. Unfortunately for children with ADHD, it is a condition that many of their peers do not fully understand.
Children with ADHD are often perceived as ‘different’ from the rest. While the social ecosystem of a school already presents a complicated maze for children to navigate in, the underdeveloped social skills associated with ADHD can make it even harder for children with ADHD to find a place to fit in.
Children with ADHD are especially susceptible to bullies. As bullies typically target individuals with low-self esteem and weak social networks, bullying can further exacerbate the problems children with ADHD already have at school.
A child being bullied may experience a notable change in their behaviour. Their eating and sleeping habits may change and they might avoid social situations even more than usual. Academic performance may dip, and some might even skip school. It’s important to look out for physical changes as well, as cuts and bruises are one of the tell-tale signs of bullying at school.
Bullying can be a traumatic experience with long-lasting consequences. If you suspect a child is being bullied at school, talk to them immediately or contact their school counsellor. Escalate the matter to the police if the child is in physical danger, and consider enlisting the help of therapists to help them cope with the abuse.
Long term solutions
Cultivating social skills is the most effective tool in dealing with the problems presented by ADHD. Having friends can produce two important benefits: Friends can build self-esteem and teach those with ADHD how to form relationships and practice essential social skills.
Children with behavioural problems should not be isolated from others. Any interaction, negative or positive, can present valuable insights into the way a child will react to a given situation. Therefore, it’s important to increase the number of opportunities a child with ADHD has to interact with others their age. Let them play, let them laugh and let them cry. Encourage them to be social!
Good Behaviour Model
Individuals with ADHD should also be encouraged to observe and pick up on social cues. Experiencing first-hand what is considered appropriate or not can be a valuable learning experience. Taking the time to discuss hypothetical situations and how to react to them may provide a useful blueprint for them to use in future interactions. Consider playing role playing games that emphasise conflict resolution and building awareness.
Make rules and stick to them
It is recommended that parents lay down strict ground rules for behaviour in the home. Combining a sense of structure with a little positive reinforcement and a rewards system can make it fun for children with ADHD to learn how to pick up good behaviour. Simple rules and simple rewards can drive home simple concepts.
Rules should not be confined to the home, ensure that good behaviour is also practiced in the classroom. Parents should learn what is required of their children at school, so that the same practices may be reinforced in the home. A thoughtful collaboration between parent and teacher can create the type of warm and supportive environment that can nurture the best out of children with ADHD.
At the end of the day, dealing with the social problems of individuals with ADHD is all about putting them in a position to learn about themselves, and develop essential social skills. The techniques outlined above are only effective when the proper support is provided. Just like this article, ADHD may seem bad at first, but putting a positive spin on things can make a world of difference to someone struggling with ADHD.