Conversation Starters for Our Home-Bound Life

It’s an unusual circumstance that has brought us all to this place – it’s not often that we hole up together lately. But, some of my favorite memories as a child are of simple days or evenings where we were sitting together with one another or people we liked. We talked, played scrabble, or ate a meal. It wasn’t especially remarkable, but those memories still represent peace and the enduring possibility of family.

Spending an inordinate amount of time with one another doesn’t automatically mean we know a lot about each other, we need to keep sharing to keep connected.

Getting in the habit of talking and asking good questions can be one of the most intimate and loving acts we can do for one another. But it can be hard to think of ideas while we are stressed about our health, our new work situations, and re-organizing our lives to minimize risks.

Young kids are usually good at connection, they desire connection and will bring you toys, ask you to play, and they will complain (or do wild things to get your attention) when you are not present enough!

So, while we’re social distancing and learning new ways of being social, apart, here are some ideas for how to keep conversations going at home with those we live with: friends, family, partners and kids.

Perhaps it goes without saying (or maybe not), but putting away our devices (phones, ipads, computers, etc), aids in connection and having a device present during a connecting moment detracts from one. Think if it this way, if we were chatting at a restaurant and I suddenly got up to sit at another table you’d be upset and puzzled. Sending or responding to a text message while talking to someone is the same type of disconnection. It says “I value this new opportunity to connect more than i value you.”

Conversation prompts for partners:

-What can I do to help you today?

-Would you like a nap? (My favorite).

-I really appreciated it when…

-Thank you for….

-Can you talk to me right now?

-I feel seen when you…

-What are you reading?

-Any friends you’ve caught up with lately or finding interesting to talk to?

When you start getting into the habit of asking about feelings, you also become better at sharing them and tolerating them. It’s easier, then, for you to offer up “It felt great that you offered me a nap today.” Or, “I’m really stressed about X, can you talk with me about what our plan should be?” Ideally, becoming fluent in emotional language means that these feelings are not triggers to each other, but opportunities to fix things.

Tips:

*Make eye contact! This is probably what led you to choose your partner, so keep doing it. We need connection to thrive.

*It’s easier when we are together all day (and stressed) to become irritated, defensive, critical of one another. We each need to remember to process our knee-jerk reactions alone before talking to one another.

*Share and enjoy de-stressing moments: take a moment to feel helped when your partner takes on a chore, orders delivery, lets you sleep in, and so on. Life happens in the small moments, and noticing the small things can add up.

Conversation prompts for families with kids: 

I’ve heard of parents buying new toys online to weather the weeks ahead (I’m guilty of this, too) and this can be essential to help pass the time. But when I think back on being a kid, I hardly recall my toys. I recall being read to by a parent, or eating a bowl of cherries together.

My favorite moments with my family are still simple ones: when a fun song comes on, when we build a tall tower with blocks, or when a conversation suddenly turns funny and we share a laugh. All this isn’t to say that we don’t go through hard times or that we haven’t (or won’t in the future) experienced trauma, it means that if we try really hard, we can find moments like these and be present (and wise) enough to stop everything (ie stop texting) and to enjoy them. These are the moments kids will remember. And these are the moments that they will feel the capacity for resiliency rise within them. 

The dark side of this is feeling neglected and unseen. Both adults and kids can feel more stress, less connection, more depression and a host of other relationship and life issues because of a lack of attention.

-What was your favorite part of the day today?

-Was there a time you felt proud of yourself today?

– What outfit do you want to wear tomorrow?

-What activity would you like to do tomorrow?

-What did you see on your walk today? Remember the ____ ?

-How did you feel when you saw your classmates online?

-Which book/toy do you want to share next time when we talk with our friends? What make you pick that one?

-Did you feel loved today?

Tips:

*Make eye contact! This is how kids learn they have value as humans.

*Follow you child (if they are small), and keep conversations going by talking about what they want to talk about. Stay curious and playful instead of saying ‘No.’

*Sit down for meals (if possible) or start a new tradition of sitting together.  It’s usually a good time to check in, and even a few moments fully present together can have an impact on the rest of the day.

Keep checking back in and I will keep adding to this list. Or, send me an email with any questions you have about relating and I will try my best to answer!