Summertime Friends

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

Children with ADHD often struggle with friendships during the school year. They may have a hard time picking up on social cues, initiating and maintaining conversations, being empathetic toward their peers, and staying calm when they feel frustrated or offended. As a result, research shows that children with ADHD are more likely to have conflicts with their classmates or be ignored and overlooked by their peers. These social patterns can be hard to break – especially when children are interacting with the same group of classmates day after day and year after year. Summer provides a fresh start for friendships. Meeting new children in a new setting is sometimes all it takes to get summer friendships off to a good start. As a parent, there are things you can do to help set your child up for success this summer.  

Teach friendship skills. Talk to your child about what it takes to make a new friend. Children with ADHD often need to learn social skills the same way that they need to learn skills in order to read or play a sport. Coach your child on ways to start a conversation, join a group, and be a good sport during games and activities. Role play these skills with your child, and prompt them to use these skills when you observe them playing with other children. At the end of this post there are a few simple steps to help you get started. 

Encourage playdates and get-togethers. Studies show that children who invite their peers to do fun activities are better liked than children who don’t offer invitations. So, help your child think of fun activities that they can do and help them invite their new friend along. Activities can be something as simple as going to the playground for a few minutes at the end of the day, or a bigger activity like a playdate at home or a trip to the movies.  

Get help from summer program counselors, educators and coaches. Children with ADHD often need support throughout the day to make and maintain new friendships. Talk to your child’s counselors, tutors and coaches about the skills that you’re working on with your child. Let them know that your child could use some extra support when it comes to making new friends. You’ll likely be surprised by how willing people are to help your child make new friends.  

Enroll your child in activities that allow them to shine. The demands of the school year can make it hard for a child with ADHD to feel confident academically and socially. Capitalize on summer’s flexibility by enrolling your child in the activities that they feel most confident about and enjoy the most. This confidence will naturally carry over into their interactions with new friends who share the same interests.  

Boost confidence by building academic skills. Enroll your child in group tutoring and academic programs over the summer, in addition to fun activities. They’ll meet other children like them and will have an opportunity to see that they’re not the only one who needs a little extra help to keep up at school. They’re bound to enjoy and even look up to some of these children. If your child is not struggling, summer enrichment can help they get ahead and practice some new concepts before the school year kicks off. These sessions also provide an opportunity for your child to practice conversation skills and good sportsmanship, and they can invite classmates to join them for activities outside of class. And the biggest benefit? They’ll be learning academic skills that will help them when school starts in the fall.  

Perhaps more than any other issue, parents of children with ADHD worry the most about their child making and keeping friends. Summertime can be a great chance for your child to hit the reset button and create strong friendships with children who share their same interests. Seize the opportunity, practice some of the tips included here, and you might just see your child blossom this summer. 

Keys to Good Conversations

  1. Make eye contact.
  2. Ask questions about something you think the other person might be interested in.
  3. Give the other person a chance to talk (and try not to be a conversation hog).
  4. Keep the conversation going. Share something about yourself that's on topic, or ask another on-topic question.

Keys to Good Sportsmanship

  1. Be a good winner. Don't brag or boast when you sin. Say "good game" to the loser.
  2. Be a good loser. Say, "That's okay; maybe I'll win next time." Then congratulate the winner.
  3. Cheer on your teammates. Do this even when you're feeling frustrated!

Keys to Joining a Group

  1. Make the first move. Rather than waiting for someone in the group to notice you, introduce yourself when there is a break in the conversation.
  2. Follow the conversation tips above to join a conversation.
  3. If the group is already engaged in an activity (like a kickball game or craft project), simply introduce yourself, and then say, "This looks fun! Can I please join you?"


Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.