J's difficulty with friendships

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Malika, Sep 22, 2013.

  1. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    In posting this, may I ask just one thing? May I ask for you not to tell me that J is on the autism spectrum? :) I live with him and know him, and I and others that have known or met him, am sure that he is not. But he still has lots of difficulties!
    Most of the stuff I have read about ADHD talks about the difficulty these children have with friendships and their frequent social isolation. Because J is very sociable and friendly, this is not always apparent but it is becoming more and more so.
    Shortly after we moved here (to the flat we used to live in, in a neighbourhood of Marrakesh that is overwhelmingly residential, leafy, pleasant and fairly wealthy), J hooked up with a 10 year old who lives just down the road. We've been out together a few times when I've taken them to the swimming pool and he's spent quite a lot of time at our house and J at his. At least when he is with me, this kid is really nice and I like him - very easy-going, laid-back, cheerful and helpful, strikingly similar to the 9 year old J was friendly with in the village in France. He seems to laugh off a lot of J's eccentriticies and difficultness - just yesterday I was thinking I was glad J has got a friend here, even if it isn't one of his own age.
    And then... predictably, probably... by the evening yesterday this kid is declaring he's not friends with J any more, won't come to the house any more, etc. It's not the first time he's said this but now it seems more serious. It all happened when they were outside playing with other kids in the square. As far as I can piece it together, J got angry over something (and there seems to be a prevailing issue over J's scooter which he is probably not sharing freely enough) and said some rude and impulsive things to this boy, who then unsurprisingly got upset. It ended with J coming crying to me at home asking me to come and speak to the friend. I did so, reluctantly (feeling he should probably be managing his friendships himself) and the boy unwillingly shook hands and went on playing with J. But it all blew up again after I left them... and this pattern is presumably just going to repeat with other kids.
    Obviously this kind of thing happens with children. But it happens a lot more frequently with J, I think. He desperately needs to learn how to manage his feelings without spilling out into anger and self-destructive behaviour (that obviously also hurts the people his anger spills onto), both with children and adults.
    Ideas... thoughts?
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

  3. Renea

    Renea Member

    I just looked this book up on amazon and it's cheaper over there. I may order this for my difficult child!
  4. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    Maybe J's scooter should stay at home for the time being and be used only when he is out with you. We used to leave toys that our kids had difficulty sharing, and it wasn't all of them, just a few special ones, at home when we went to the park or put them in my room when friends visited. It eliminated a lot of issues. 10 year olds are generally ok with sharing and turn taking in ways that even non-ADHD 6 year olds aren't but because they're kids, they don't cut slack. If J doesn't want to share his scooter, but is fine using their toys, kids are going to get annoyed.

    I am concerned that J doesn't have friends his own age. I know that it can be difficult for very bright kids to find age peers but they do exist. My oldest son, whose original diagnosis was ADHD, had basically one friend - the other kid who at age 7 also knew a baby swan was a cygnet and not a duckling. difficult child, who is super bright and ODD with perfectionism/anxiety issues, usually had one friend at a time up until HS. J sounds as if he is more social that my 2 older boys so it might be easier to find one good friend for him.

    Are there any social skills groups where you are? Can you do the method where you act out and try to predict scenarios for practice? I know this method is often used for kids with autism, but it works for all kids. My daughter has no diagnosis'es (the boys have enough to include her and then some) but when she was younger, we used to practice things like how to order when a friend's family takes you for dinner, what to do when you're the first one to arrive at a party and the like. Even now, as she turns 22 and gets ready to head out into working life, we use this method. She wanted to student teach at a specific school so we practiced having her approach the person who does the placements and put forth her reasons. I used it with oldest boy when he first started working as a delivery driver. I practiced making eye contact, saying thank you politely even if the tip was small and the like. You and J can brainstorm some situations, like sharing the scooter, that give him trouble, and have him practice different responses. Since he's so young, maybe cutting out pictures from magazines might help, like those showing kids sharing and playing together.

    Another thing might be that J has moved around so much that he doesn't really feel (subconsciously) that he has to invest so much into these kids because there will be new kids soon anyway, like an "army brat." Please note that I'm not faulting you for moving, your last situation in France sounded so horrible that it made me feel like I would never want to visit that country and it's good that you removed J from that place.

    Maybe the principal at his new school can help you. When my daughter was in elementary school, they had a "circle of friends" to help kids develop friendship skills. The children who were chosen to be the friends all had issues of their own. One had serious anxiety, another was a bully, another was on the spectrum, etc. My daughter cried because she wasn't chosen but the teacher told me she wasn't the type of child they were trying to reach. The program was successful because the kids learned to accept other kids who were different and to be accepted. While the kids didn't necessarily stay friends with each other afterwards, they all developed better friendship and coping skills. One of the school counselors led the group.

    Good luck.
  5. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I also used role playing and although it didn't solve the problem I believe it was helpful. In my case it worked best when it included humor. Often it was multiple choice with some of the answers so bizarre that we both ended up rolling in laughter. The more correct answers were obvious and discusion followed. Perhaps that would be helpful.

    Since I have never lived in a different culture I have no way of knowing what the best approach may be in your case but I do know that my difficult child's could not handle hours of freedome with-o a problem arising. While the easy child's could easily be told "you can go play but just make sure I know where to find you" the difficult child's were not able to recognize when they were over stimulated or "crossing the line". As a result they were told "you can go play for an hour and then I expect you to come home for awhile". Of course, I stayed "aware" of where they were and enforced the checkin so I could better judge how it was going. Too much freedom for difficult child's, in my humble opinion, just naturally leads to problems. Good luck. DDD
  6. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    While ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are different, there are a lot of similarities. I've often said I expect ADHD to end up on the spectrum one day. One thing about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), which may or may not be true of ADHD (you will have to investigate that) is that Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids tend to have a lot of trouble regulating their emotions, which is why they fly off the handle so quickly and have meltdowns, EVEN AS ADULTS SOMETIMES (depending on the person). If J. has problems regulating his emotion, that needs to be included with the social skills training...identifying his emotions and learning how to take control of them.

    It is normal for socially awkward kids to find older/younger friends and to like to hang around with adults too. These age brackets are far more forgiving of social gaffaws than same-age peers who have strict expectations that socially inept kids do not even know, let alone understand. Often they must be text book taught. These kids AND adults (I am one of them) miss social cues, blurt things out that may not be diplomatic (often they don't even understand the rules of and reasons for diplomacy) and are quite impulsive (yes, even adults). That turns others off. You do get rejected.

    I have been aware that I do best one-on-one with people and am just now reading about how to socialize appropriately in a group because at my age, many enjoyable events are group-oriented and I don't want to keep scaring people off without realizing it. If people, including kids, come on too strong, have steadfast, inflexible opinions, don't listen well to others and can not read body language...it can be a rocky ride in life's social arena. I think a parent can read about social skills training for kids and teach it appropriately to a child. It may not make things perfect, but it can help the child do better. I do not think that either exposure to other kids or kids just watching other kids socialize computes much with differently wired kids/adults. They really need things pointed out to them that they miss.

    I know you can help J with this. You are a good teacher.
  7. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    JMO here but... I really doubt J is going to figure this out on his own. He needs to be in controlled social situations, where you are semi-actively involved... not running the show, but within sight and earshot of every single second of interchange... he needs someone to catch the problem before it happens, and move things to a different track. It's highly intense, and takes a huge amount of time and effort, of course. But as I doubt you have special support groups that provide social skills training, it will be up to you to find a way to provide it.
  8. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I agree with InsaneCdn. J needs to be in controlled social situations where you are within ear-shot. It's all about learning the skills he's not equipped with naturally. ADHD kids, like Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), do have social issues - my son is a prime example. At J's age, impulsivity can be a huge issue. medications helped my difficult child with that. But so did controlled social situations and role playing. He has to be taught. You can't let him just "run free" and expect typical kid behavior. I made sure that my difficult child had play dates at our home where I could intervene and either use teaching moments or "change the subject".

    For many of our kids, social skills are a huge deficit. Power for the course.....

  9. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Excellent advice!!
  10. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Well, I don't know about every single second of interchange, but certainly I can see it is helpful to be a hovering presence on occasion, helping J navigate through his exploding, impulsive expressions of his feelings, for example.
    Thanks for all your good advice. It is odd J doesn't seem to make friends his own age but I think this is partly because he is so active, so much needing space in which to roam and run, that he connects with older kids who are allowed out to do this also. I don't think it's because he's precociously bright.... he isn't :) What MWM said about people who have too strident opinions, come on too strong, don't listen well to others... this is exactly J. A few easy-going kids don't seem to mind it - most do. It's also his particular personality as well as the ADHD, I guess.
    Anyway, he and the 10 year old are friends again, and they played together yesterday and this evening... he's really a pleasant, charming child though I have the instinct (hope I'm wrong) that he's quite a lot nicer in front of adults!
    J's hyperactivity also cuts off some social contact... last night we went to a birthday party for 5 year old twins down the road he has made friends with. He rushed around and play fought with the twins, played a bit of cars and planes with them, spoke a bit and joked around with some older girls, but the rest of the time was running in and out of the house and around the place like he does... doesn't stay still and interact. He's honestly incredibly hyperactive and has been since early babyhood. It does make him different from others.
  11. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    I didn't say... every single interchange ;)

    Can you get him to practice sitting still? as in, start with 30 seconds, and work up, with a reward for reaching the next plateau... this is for use in social situations, not for school - he needs to be able to pull an "on command" performance of sitting still... useful skill, that's all.
  12. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Malika, you check out any books on teaching children social skills? You'd be amazed at the good suggestions many of them have in them! Not all cost that much either :)

    You may want to teach him, by role playing, to approach kids slowly and to listen to what they say before reacting. It will take time. You have time. He is only a very young boy. IC had a good idea.
  13. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I have two words of wisdom, "Early Intervention".

    The earlier you (or a team, or a doctor, etc.) can begin to teach him to recognize himself, the earlier you move towards him learning to self modulate thoughts and behaviors.

    You can't react you must be proactive.

    Trust me. My son was extremely hyper (from in vitro!) and impulsive from the starting gate. Early intervention made all the difference in the world. It takes time and hard work but the goal is to work towards
    self-sufficiency and the earlier you start the better.

    *As he gets older the behaviors only get more challenging for him and more frustrating for those around him.

  14. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the word of warning, Little Dudes Mum. I think we've got more in place now, more constructively, than J has ever had - ironically in Morocco where there is even less understanding and knowledge of ADHD generallly than there is in France...
    Every alternate Tuesday we are going to an alternative school outside of Marrakech where I am teaching English and J is spending time with the other kids and teacher. We went today for the first time and it seemed to go quite well. The teacher had prepared for our arrival by talking about J, his hyperactivity and about differences in general. I probably have mixed feelings about that - when we first arrived, the children kept laughing (not unkindly) at everything J did and said, but as the teacher pointed out in the general group conversation we began with, that froze J into a clown role that would just make him play to it more and more and which limited his real possibilities. The value of Jacob going occasionally to this school, for me, is precisely that it will help him talk about feelings, relationships with others, etc. This is the way the teacher works, as much as she teaches intellectually.
    He has also twice seen the psychomotricienne who is great.... you can see she really gets kids like J and understands how to reach them on their level. Last time we went they were playing some loud racing game that was teaching him how to wait and pause a little. Tomorrow I have to ring the child psychiatrist here who is the Marrakech ADHD specialist and try to get an early appointment.
    I can see that J is learning social skills, slowly, in the sense that he does try to put into practice a couple of things we've talked about... It's very slow, and it's very small, but to me it's significant change.