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Conversation starters with family
May 4, 2018

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On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., I noticed something that I think is becoming a new trend. While eating out at some nice restaurants there, I noticed that people were eating and talking to each other. There were conversations going on at every table. Something was different. Nobody had cell phones! In an age of smart phones everywhere, the absence was obvious. This was observed in several restaurants - people were not looking at their phones. There were no rules posted about this. It was just the new normal. Its strange to say that, because its actually the old normal before smart phones entered our society. I'm glad to see this new old normal coming back, but I wonder how long it will be before it catches on here in the Mid-Ohio Valley? My guess is that it will take a while. What I think is going on in the DC metro area is happening in all the major metropolitan areas: Its that people are becoming more aware of the negative social implications of putting their phones between themselves and other people or experiences. They have learned that when they look at their phones, they are not being present for the meal in front of them (which they paid good money for) nor the people with whom they are sitting.

So here's my challenge to the Mid-Ohio Valley: Let's keep our phones off the table and out of our hands when eating. Lets work on being present in the moment right before us, even if its more boring than what you could find on your little screen. Work at making your moments with others more interactive and interesting! Create more than you consume. What I mean by this is put energy and information into the social world you actually exist within, rather than watching and consuming entertainment from cyberspace.

Make the most of every opportunity to maintain and build your real relationships. This takes time, togetherness, and talking. The talking part seems to be the hardest. For instance, how much time do you spend together with your family in the car, but nobody is talking to each other? Instead, everyone is staring at their phones, talking on their phones or they have earbuds in their heads. Easygoing and conflict-free conversation is one of the blessings of family relationships. Sharing stories, jokes, laughing together, and learning more about each other are bonding interactions. The more bonding and rapport-building conversations you can have in your family relationships, the better those relationships can handle conflicts when they do arise. With that in mind, I'm providing some conversation starters. Some questions are geared more towards marital conversations, and others are more general for family interactions. My suggestion is to use these when you have that valuable table time together, or when you are driving your kids here and there.

Family Questions

What were the highs and lows for you this week? What's coming up that you are excited about or worried about? What are the best and worst sounds in the world? Funniest sounds? What age would you like to be and why? If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Tell about a special gift you received as a child? How would you like to change your family to make it better? What do you like best about your personality? Why? Talk about something that worries you. What is the best thing for you to do when you feel upset?

Couple Relationship Questions

What is a favorite memory of our time together?

Talk about a married couple you admire and why? Talk about a time you felt very close to each other. What is your idea of a romantic night together? What is a surprising thing that you fight about in your marriage? Don't fight about it now, just talk about the surprising thing. What would you like to change about our relationship to make it better? What do you treasure the most about our relationship? Share three things you appreciate about your mate as your mate, not as a parent.

Patrick Ward, Ph.D. is a marriage and family therapist in Parkersburg. Visit his website at patrickwardphd.com

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