Tips for Helping Children with ADHD Succeed in Group Settings

Health Writer

Working in a group setting, whether in the classroom, through a club, or in a social setting provides valuable social skills that can help children with ADHD not only during the school years, but also in the working world.

Some of the benefits of working in a group setting, according to Carnegie Mellon University, are:

  • Developing time management skills

  • Improving social skills

  • Increasing understanding of a topic through group discussions

  • Learning to break complex tasks into smaller units

  • Finding new ways of solving problems and learning to compromise

  • Learning to recognize the feelings of others

  • Developing a respect for other people’s perspectives

Many children with ADHD struggle to make and keep friends and have difficulty with time management. They don’t always feel comfortable in group settings, and ADHD symptoms such as inattention or impulsivity can interfere with their ability to work well within a group. However, it is difficult to make it through childhood without having to work in a group at some time. Sports teams, some school projects, and even playing at recess are group situations. Despite the difficulties, your child might benefit from learning how to work within a group setting.

The following are tips to help children with ADHD get the most out of group activities:

  • Start small. Introduce group settings by inviting two or three friends over to play. Set a definite start and end time, for example, from 2:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m., to give the friends a chance to play together while ending it before problems arise.
  • Look for individual or small group activities. Sports such as martial arts are both individual and group settings. Each person works toward their own self-development, but classes also offer a child a chance to be with other people. Classes, such as art or music classes, can also offer individual instruction in a group setting. Try to incorporate your child’s interests in your choices.

  • Practice group social skills at home. Use role playing to help your child better understand social cues. Play board games with several members of the family. Dedicate one evening to making dinner together as a group. Practice, even with family members, will help your child feel more comfortable in group settings outside your home.

  • Manage your expectations. Children with ADHD are often more immature than their chronological age. Keep this in mind when choosing groups and look for one with mixed ages so your child doesn’t stick out as the immature one of the group.

  • Talk to group leaders. Scouts and other organized groups that follow a structure during meetings and outings are often a good fit for children with ADHD. Consider talking to the group leader before joining. Ask if there are other children with ADHD and what adjustments are made to help them feel part of the group.

  • Discuss the group activity with your child beforehand. Children with ADHD do much better when they know what to expect. Consider attending the activity by yourself, as an observer, first so you can give your child details on what to expect and how to behave.

  • Set up a meeting to talk to your child’s teacher. Ask about social skills, including how your child gets along with classmates or whether there are any issues during recess. Ask whether the teacher utilizes small groups in the classroom. Find out how your child performs in groups and if there are specific areas you can work on at home to help your child be more comfortable in group activities.

See More Helpful Articles:

How ADHD Affects the Daily Life of a Child

Parenting Checklist: What to Do When Your Child is Diagnosed with ADHD

Teaching Gratitude to ADHD Children

Is My Child High-Energy or ADHD?

Symptoms vs. Misbehaving in Children with ADHD


Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.