GROWING UP WITH ADHD: THE MIDDLE YEARS
YOU LEARNED THAT YOUR MIDDLE- schooler is skipping lunch to avoid the cafeteria. Should you
address it head-on, giving her advice
that she probably won’t listen to, or
demand that she go to lunch? It is hard
to know. The cafeteria is where everyone
comes together to socialize and hang
out. For the ADHD child, this setting can
be very challenging.
Social struggles are not restricted to
school. Children have the same deficits
at home, at stores, on the ballfield, and
in every life setting. Many kids want to
improve their friendship skills, but don’t
know how. That’s where you come in.
Working with your child to meet social
challenges leads to behaviors that your
child can use everywhere. The following
strategies will help your child move
through the socially difficult years of
adolescence more easily.
How do I help my son
stop avoiding the school
Children avoid the cafeteria because
they are bullied, but also because they
don’t know how to interact with peers,
join a conversation, or even where to sit.
>Debrief your child.; Without telling
your child he is doing anything wrong,
ask open-ended questions to find out
what he thinks is happening. Ask about
whom he sits with, when he feels uncomfortable, or if there are friends he
would like to sit with.
>Practice skills.; Nothing is tougher for
How can I help my child
kids than joining a conversation that is
in progress. Suggest a little detective
work. Ask your child to go to lunch, lis-
ten to what everyone talks about, and
report back. You and he can role-play
conversations that build on the topics
the group talks about most often.
>Get outside help.; Avoidance is not a
plan, so if your child can’t navigate
social situations, have her work with a
professional social skills group.
when she isn’t invited to
If a child isn’t invited to birthday parties,
concerts, or other peer activities, it is
time to team up and find out what might
be causing the problem.
>Discuss things, without blame, to
help your child diagnose why she isn’t
fitting in.; Walk her through her day at
school and ask her to recount one or two
of the social interactions she had—what
she said to a classmate, how that child
reacted—and discuss what she thinks
she could have done differently.
> Talk about different types of friend-
ship.; Many children with social chal-
lenges try to make friends with kids who
do not share their interests, or they
misinterpret social cues and think any
friendly person wants to be friends. Help
your child understand different kinds of
“friendships”: There are people you say
hello to, acquaintances, people you
interact with, and real friends. Brain-
storm with her about ways to befriend
children with whom she shares interests
and who treat her well.
Find ways to meet others with simi-lar interests—social clubs, youth
groups, and other interest-based activities. These places give your child a
chance to socialize by talking about
things the kids like in common.
How can I make group
projects less intimidating
for my daughter?
Group projects are tough for her because
she has to contribute, advocate for her
ideas, participate in the discussion, and
present a final project. The following
case study shows how to make group
projects less challenging for your child.
Ali is 12 years old, and she hates group
projects. She and her mom write the
teacher asking for advice about what
she can do better in the next group
project. The teacher says Ali should
speak up more and identify a role
Social Skills Coach
Parents play many roles,
and one of the most important
is teaming up with your child
to practice friendship skills.
BY CAROLINE MAGUIRE, PCC, M.;ED.;