I have a confession. I hate small talk. I am seriously inept at it and I just do not enjoy it. Does anybody enjoy it? How’s the weather? What’s going on with you this week? Give me a passionate, authentic conversation any day but small talk makes me cringe.
If I feel the way I do about small talk, I often wonder how my daughter feels when she gets regularly asked what must be the most boring questions in the world to her. She generally doesn’t answer or often makes some kind of strange noise and runs away. She’s 4. She has yet to learn the art of politely answering dull questions (and today she started making fart noises when she was told how pretty her hair was…but that’s another topic).
I just feel like there has got to be more people can do if they want to engage, REALLY engage, with my kids.
I get it. People don’t always know what to say. But I feel like collectively we as parents should give people some tips on how to really engage with kids. Who cares what they did at school today or what they ate for lunch. The kids themselves typically don’t care so don’t bother. Kids will talk to you about the most imaginative, curious and often profound things if you give them the chance.
My advice is to try asking some fun questions to really get them talking rather than making funny noises (or later rolling their eyes). My kids are young, as kids get older you can ask them more ‘serious’ interesting questions to illicit more interesting, authentic conversation.
1. Do you have a superpower? What is it?
2. Have you ever met a talking animal?
3. What do you think is in outer space?
4. Did you have any dreams last night?
5. If your dog/cat/gerbil could talk, what would their voice sound like? What would they say?
There are so many questions to ask. Just have fun. Think past the mundane. And if you ask them about their favourite colour, food, book or movie also ask them the why behind the choice.
I regularly witness people trying to have ‘normal’ (aka adult) conversations with her while she is busy trying to give everybody roles in her latest pretend scenario involving castles, princesses, scooters and picnics. Regularly engaging in pretend play is no easy feat nor is it really possible BUT I feel like visitors who are here to spend time with our kids could just let up on the chit chat and just PLAY. Believe me when I tell you that you will have a bigger impact and be very much loved by said children if you choose play over jibber jabber. And YOU will remember it more too. Our daughter regularly asks for and truly misses those people in her life that know how to get down and dirty playing the circus game or having a good ol’ dance party.
I remember before I was a parent I got to spend time with my nieces. I would often leave the main conversation (I did mention I am awful at small talk, right?) and go off with the kids to colour or build blocks or whatever was happening that day. And it felt good and fun and the kids never wanted it to stop. Kids truly appreciate people who join their world and stick around for a little while.
There will be plenty of time in the future to chat about the weather or if your cold is clearing up. For now let the little people in your life tell you stories and jokes, show you some dance moves and very likely teach you something you didn’t already know, if you let them.