Talk to your child before playdates about how to respond if his friend wants to play with different toys than he does. Discuss your child’s interests and feelings. Then talk about the interests and feelings his friend might have.
Remind your child that he doesn’t like being bossed by other kids and that other kids don’t like being bossed around by him. This can be especially helpful if your child has difficulties with peers because he only wants to play games he likes. Make a schedule for the playdate ahead of time so you can make sure a variety of activities are included.
What you can say
“Jacob, you rock at Legos. Your imagination amazes me. I know you want to work on your rocket ship this weekend when Sam comes over to play. He doesn’t seem to be as into Legos as you are, right?”
“He loves to play cards and is really good at Go Fish! You like that game too, although I know you prefer Legos. Do you think Sam will have more fun if the playdate includes his favorite activity as well as yours? Remember it doesn’t feel good to be bossed around. We always want to be kind and considerate to others.”
Why this will help
Children with learning and attention issues can be very single-minded. This can lead to other kids seeing your child as self-absorbed and not interested in what others like or think.
It’s important for you to validate his interests, but there’s a way to do this while at the same time pointing out that not everyone has the same likes and dislikes. Encouraging your child ahead of time to vary the activities is one of the ways you can reduce friction during playdates. It can also broaden his interests and make him more aware of other children’s feelings.