3 Tips to Boost Your ADHD Teen’s Social Skills

When I was a teenager, teens talked on the phone, had slumber parties, met up for ice cream and sodas. We knew how to hold conversations and talk to adults even if we didn’t want to. We could reach out and present a firm handshake to anyone. 

Maybe my social skills had more to do with how my parents raised me. I was a farm girl who could work hard, play hard, and talk to anyone. 

But in general, our teens today tend to gravitate toward different forms of socialization. They talk to friends online, through texts, on social media, and sometimes in person. They have different challenges. 

They aren’t always comfortable with the real-life socialization scenarios, especially if they are struggling to cope with ADHD, puberty, and introversion.

When I was a teenager, teens talked on the phone, had slumber parties, met up for ice cream and sodas. We knew how to hold conversations and talk to adults even if we didn’t want to. We could reach out and present a firm handshake to anyone. 

Maybe my social skills had more to do with how my parents raised me. I was a farm girl who could work hard, play hard, and talk to anyone. 

But in general, our teens today tend to gravitate toward different forms of socialization. They talk to friends online, through texts, on social media, and sometimes in person. They have different challenges. 

They aren’t always comfortable with the real-life socialization scenarios, especially if they are struggling to cope with ADHD, puberty, and introversion.

But the fact is, in real life, they aren’t always surrounded by their peers. They can’t always reach out through text. Real life requires social skills that a video game and a smartphone can’t provide. 

They will have to move beyond their circle of friendship and relate to another age group or a person from a different social sphere. 

That’s why I’m spending all year working on social skills with my teen clients. 

Social skills are so important to whatever life goal they envision. They affect your teen’s ability to demonstrate flexibility for the uncomfortable and unexpected situations of adulthood.

This is Real Life

Recently I had to do some major frontloading to help my teens prepare for an unfamiliar social situation. 

A dear, sweet, old family friend was coming into town, and wanted to have lunch. This man is like my second father. But because of the pandemic, we hadn’t seen him in quite a while (2 years!), so my boys weren’t thrilled about the idea of holding a long conversation with a 70 year old man (even one that they adore). 

I knew exactly how the lunch would go if I didn’t frontload my teens.I prepared them for what I expected of them. I wanted them to be able to contribute to the conversation and not look like they were uninterested. 

But that’s okay. Sometimes we have to help our ADHD teens do maintenance on their social skills and prompt them with the right answer. 

So I want to share with you 3 of my best tips to help your teenager engage in conversation. 

How to Talk to My Teen

1. Help them figure out what they have in common with person X.

This first step helps them think of the big picture, not just the obvious differences. Before our lunch, I walked them through some questions to help them think of what they shared in common with our friend. It’s important to help your teens understand that no matter the age or circumstance, at the end of the day, we all have more in command than not. (When in doubt, use covid as a conversation starter. 😂)

2. Remind them to make (appropriate) eye contact, especially when they meet someone for the first time.

It took a long time for our son to look adults in the eye. He’s come a long way, and I’m proud of him. Having eye contact and manners, really matters. 

It helps you to stay focused and interact and it shows the person across from you that you care what they have to say, you’re invested in the conversation, and you want to be there. Put that ADHD hyperfocus to good use! 

Remind them to put away their phones and keep their focus on the person in front of them. It can be very uncomfortable for our teens to practice eye contact, but it’s worth the effort.

3. Give a solid handshake.

Nobody likes to admit it, but we are all automatically judging people by their handshake. It’s a great way of introducing yourself. You can communicate confidence, strength, and acceptance with a nice, firm handshake. 

Body language is 95% how we communicate with others. We can communicate a thousand messages without speaking a word by using body language.

How to Motivate a Teenager with ADHD

If your teen isn’t quite there with the social skills, give them more opportunities to practice. Take them along to lunch with you and a friend. Get them involved in a sports program that emphasizes manners and social interaction. (My teen is in an excellent sports program that helps him practice his social skills by combining them with sports.)

Let them go for a job interview or two. They can see what it’s like to answer questions and practice cognitive flexibility. (And they might even get the job!)

Frontloading is not the funnest thing I’ve ever done. But I promise you, all the frontloading it takes to prepare your teens for successful socializing is so worth it.

ADHD Coach Near Me

For more tips on raising independent, high functioning teens with ADHD, explore my website and my coaching options. Book a call with me! Jump in the Facebook group and drop your questions. I would love to hear from you!