Does your child with ADHD have trouble with socializing in the virtual world? Start a conversation using these five tips.
by Caroline Maguire, MEd, ACCG, PCC
Your daughter keeps asking irritating questions on Zoom. Your son is shouting, swearing, and belittling the other kids while playing online videogames. You hear your daughter’s friends talking on FaceTime, yet she says virtually nothing; you worry that she is not joining in and is invisible, like a ghost.
Being social and navigating the virtual world is necessary for all of us, as it is part of our social and work lives. Helping children and teenagers with ADHD build the muscle to recognize social norms, read facial expressions and body language, and interpret tone of voice and social cues in the virtual world is invaluable. These skills are very difficult for some children with ADHD, whatever their age.
As the parent of a child with ADHD, you are concerned that you need to help your child with these key social skills. Your child will probably roll his or her eyes when you start the conversation about online etiquette. Yet the first step in teaching skills is having the conversation and continuing to find moments to promote positive communication between you and your child.
Here are five tips to help you have a conversation with your child about online etiquette.
1. Don’t ban the virtual world; understand it.
What bothers you about the way your child was communicating? Start with curiosity, listen to their perspective, and try to see what social norms are going on for them. What was the format and who was he playing with? What do they enjoy doing? Share what you heard from a place of curiosity: I heard you shouting, what was that about? Who plays these games or attends this Discord or Google Hangout? Make this a conversation to find out information, not an interrogation.
2. Don’t just drop in and lecture; pave the way.
Where you talk and when you talk are key. Often when as parents w2e are nervous or have concerns about a topic, we tend to go to our child’s room and start lecturing without a preamble. This leaves the children feeling bombarded, and they are less receptive to our information. Pave the way by doing things with your child that foster a more collaborative tone, make the conversations short, and approach her when she is more open to chatting. By having small conversations, you foster a nurturing, reciprocal environment that supports both of you.
3. Collaborate with your child.
Don’t present online etiquette discussions as a chore; rather, collaborate together and allow ample opportunity for your child to voice their concerns. Rather than assuming you know the answers and that they are wrong, listen with genuine curiosity. It’s a whole new world, and the more you hear their perspective the more you can understand their world.
4. Reflect, clarify, be curious.
Paraphrasing and repeating back what your child says will demonstrate empathy and help clarify your child’s concerns. By summarizing and repeating his statements, you allow your child to clarify, share greater insight, and elaborate. Tell me more about what happens on video chat? What do you talk about? Help me understand—why is there so much yelling when you play videogames? The more you paraphrase and come to hear your child’s perspective, the more you can help her hold up a mirror to these online social interactions so she can talk about it and take a 360-degree view of the social environment.
5. Help your child learn to adapt and coach her to apply key social skills to her online life.
The basis of all friendships is to have close bonds, compatibility, emotional connection, persistent contact, shared activities, and most of all, trust and loyalty. Oddly, children and young adults desire these traits with in-person friendships but have no such expectations with online friendships.
Part two: Groundbreaking strategies can help parents teach online etiquette to children and teenagers with ADHD.
Caroline Maguire, MEd, ACCG, PCC, is a personal coach, trainer, and author. You can find her groundbreaking book Why Will No One Play with Me? at carolinemaguireauthor.com.