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ADHD and Peer Relationships

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

Communicating with friends involves more than simple verbal communication using words. We communicate nonverbally with facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, and tone of voice. Nonverbal communication is generally not taught. It is most often learned through observation, interactions, and feedback from others. Some children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD experience significant social difficulties as they may have a poor understanding of these social cues. Not only do they struggle to read the nonverbal social cues of others, but they are often unable to recognise how their nonverbal cues are perceived by those around them. This can provoke negative reactions from peers.

We have seen how children and adolescents with ADHD struggle to make and keep friends because they generally have challenges around knowing how to cooperate with their peer group. In order to feel that they are in control of the environment, and to make the environment more predictable for them, they often want to make their own set of rules for a game and can come across as non-compliant. This coping mechanism often results in them being socially misinterpreted as impulsive, disinterested, inflexible, controlling, argumentative and bossy and can result in them being disliked by their peers; leaving them feeling isolated and rejected.

This peer rejection then further denies them the opportunity to practise their social skills, leading to greater isolation and higher levels of anxiety. We need to make our children aware of their difficulties and help them manage difficult feelings that can very quickly overwhelm them.

It is so helpful to put good strategies in place to facilitate successful peer interaction and to give our children the opportunity to practise these new strategies and to experience successful social outcomes. This experience will lessen their anxiety and improve their perception of self. The impact of positive social interactions will filter into every aspect of their lives.

Peer relations are one of the most important relationships for self-validation.

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