ADHD Teens and Relationship Problems

Problems ADHD teens may have with different types of relationships and how to handle them.

ADHD can have a marked effect on relationships in the teenage years - with friends, parents, siblings, other family members and partners.

Impact of ADHD  on Friendships

  • Teens with ADHD may feel 'different' from their peers and feel socially isolated.
  • Friends' parents may think they're troublemakers.
  • They may not notice how friends are feeling, especially if focused on something else.
  • They may clash with friends because they speak before they think.

Ways to tackle

  • Encourage friendships.
  • Let your teen invite people home as often as possible.
  • Have a discreet word with the parents of friends. Talk about the problems and encourage them to view your child in a more positive light.
  • Teach your teen social skills such as how to read people's body language. This will help him see when he's at odds with friends and why.
  • Teach your teen to take a deep breath before he says or does something. Ask him to think about how he'd feel if someone said or did that to him.

ADHD's Effect on Relationship with Parents

  • Most teenagers think they're old enough to do something, whereas their parents feel the opposite.
  • For teens with ADHD, the situation's even harder because the ADHD means they tend to react as if they're two or three years younger than they are. This means parents find it difficult to give them more freedom.
  • There may also be conflict between parents as to the best way to handle the teen.

Ways to tackle

  • Work as a partnership - parents and teenager need to be on the same team and respect each other.
  • Discuss the issues and work out possible solutions together. This way, you'll end up with a set of house rules that everyone can work with.
  • Include consequences of what happens if your teen doesn't stick to the rules, and follow through.
  • Expect your teen to be responsible and treat him as if he'll do well. If you expect him to fail or behave badly and treat him as if he's going to go wrong, he probably will.
  • Listen to each other and keep communication going.
  • Keep calm - if you lose control, you'll lose your authority.

Effect of ADHD  Teen on Siblings and Other Family Members

  • Siblings may feel that the child with ADHD gets all the attention and resent them having a different set of rules.
  • Teens with ADHD might not respect their siblings' space.
  • They may squabble more.
  • They may not be able to 'put the brakes on'.
    Their behaviour may cut short family trips.
  • Outside your home, other family members may be critical of your ADHD child or refuse to accept the condition exists.

Ways to tackle

  • Make non-negotiable rules about siblings' space and property. This includes no disturbing homework, and any damage to belongings is paid for out of pocket money.
  • Explain to your other children why there are different rules.
  • Separate squabblers to give them time to calm down.
  • Try to share time between your children. For example, the child without ADHD gets one parent to see school plays or sporting events.
  • Explain the situation to other family members. If they can't accept it, that's their problem.

Impact of ADHD on Personal Relationships

  • Teens with ADHD will be more forgetful than ones without ADHD, and may hurt their partner's feelings. They may have shifts in energy and their boyfriend or girlfriend may find it hard to keep up.
  • Teenagers with ADHD may find it harder to manage a relationship at times of stress such as exams. Those with poor impulse control may come on too strong.
  • First dates can be very tricky - the teen with ADHD may be so excited that he talks too much or find himself unable to follow the conversation. He may also misread social cues.

Ways to tackle

  • First dates are never easy, but the following tips may help your teen.
  • If talking too much is likely to be a problem, use a signal as a reminder to stop, eg a vibrating mobile phone alarm.
  • Think of a couple of questions to ask your date to show interest in them.
  • If you're not sure if it's OK to hold hands or kiss, ask first. Let your date set the pace so you don't come on too strong.

In the long-term, if your teen is finding the relationship hard to manage, he should talk to his girlfriend or boyfriend and explain how he feels. They are likely to understand and may even be able to help him through stressful times.



APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 8). ADHD Teens and Relationship Problems, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: May 7, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

More Info