The most common challenge for children with ADHD is that they often have the ability to understand what they need to do and how, but struggling to actually following through on tasks. In addition, another common struggle for children with ADHD that typically goes unnoticed is a lack of self-awareness. Self-awareness difficulties can negatively impact children’s social interactions and relationships. The ADHD mind sometimes fails to recognize everyday social cues. For example, a teen with ADHD may brag about getting a good grade on a test to their friend who just failed the same exam. Children with ADHD may struggle to notice body language, tone of voice, mood, and facial expressions. In other words, children with ADHD often struggle to develop the skills to “read the room.” Parents have the largest influence on their children, and just as parents teach their kids to tie their shoes, parents can also teach self-awareness!
Below are some tips and tools that can be implemented at home to help your child further develop self-awareness skills:
1. Pause, spy, and observe:
Practice going into public with a mission to spy and observe specific behaviors. This skill will most likely carry over to day-to-day social interactions and teach children to notice mood and energy levels in others.
2. Compare and contrast places:
Take a trip to the mall or any public place and ask your child to notice their surroundings. Learning to be aware of surroundings and social cues specific to the situation can teach children with ADHD to adapt and cope in stimulating environments.
3. Learn to read body language:
At your next social gathering ask your child to play a game with you. Ask them to observe the facial expressions of five individuals and report back what their expressions say about that person.
4. Decode unspoken rules:
The best place to practice this skill is at a large gathering. Ask your child to notice how others clean up after themselves, do not touch items that do not belong to them, and respect the host’s home without being told to do so.
5. Take the room’s temperature:
Again, with facial expressions, ask your child to pair another’s facial expression or body language with a mood or emotion.
6. Step into another person’s shoes:
Ask your child to adapt his or her behavior to match the behavior of the individual with whom they are interacting. Do they notice the that other person is in a hurry, just received bad news, or is sharing good news?
Author: Lauren Truskey, M.S.Ed.
Adapted from: Maguire, C. (2020, February). Teach your child to read the room. Attention, 9-11.