How to Get Kids Talking,
Grow Their Friendships,
and Inspire Change
© 2017 by Jed Jurchenko.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review distributed through electronic media, or printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal.
Dedicated to parents, stepparents, foster parents, teachers, mentors, and coaches who tirelessly build into the lives of kids.
Dedicated to the children and tweens striving to build face-to-face connections in an increasingly virtual world.
Dedicated to my own children, Mackenzie, Brooklyn, Addison, and Emmalynn. May your contagious joy, softhearted compassion, and desire to be good friends to those around you, continue to grow!
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The Big Deal About Small Talk
131 Conversations That Engage Kids
Connecting in a Disconnected World
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About the Author
More Creative Conversations
The Big Deal
About Small Talk
Welcome to 131 Conversations That Engage Kids, a small book with the big goal of getting kids talking and keeping them engaged. This book is for two primary audiences. First, it is for adults who want to help children build strong connections in an increasingly virtual and disconnected world. This includes parents, stepparents, foster parents, teachers, coaches, youth pastors, and mentors. Second, this book is for children and tweens longing to build face-to-face friendships that develop into life-long bonds.
There are four important reasons for getting intentional about face-to-face conversation. First, conversations create connection. Second, they influence positive life change. Third, conversations build social skills, and fourth, they are a whole lot of fun. The conversation starters in this book are practically guaranteed to get your kids talking and keep them engaged. However, before diving in, let’s first examine why each of these areas is so important!
Goal #1: Talking to Connect
Conversation is one of the primary ways that people connect. This is true for both children and adults. Psychology uses the term attachment, to describe the close bonding that takes place among family members and friends. Multiple studies have concluded that a secure attachment results in lower levels of anxiety, depression, and worry. It also leads to increased levels of success in college and better interpersonal relationships throughout one’s lifetime.1 In this book, the words attachment and connection are used interchangeably. Connection is important because, as students of human behavior know, connection changes everything!
The Connection Advantage
Connection is what allows a petite, five-foot mother to keep her six-foot tall, athletic son in check. When the teenage years arrive, physically enforcing rules at home becomes increasingly difficult. One does not simply pick-up a teenager and set him or her on time-out, and attempting to do so would be foolish. Placing incessant restrictions on beloved items such as cell phones, extracurricular activities, and household privileges is exhausting. Fortunately, a strong bond between parent and child can render these methods unnecessary. I am acquainted with a number of teens who follow the rules, not because they have to, nor because they want to, but because they cannot stand the thought of breaking their mom or dad’s heart.
A strong attachment is what causes friends and family to stick together through thick and thin. It is also the reason why sports teams give 110%. When children are connected, they push themselves over, above, and beyond what they feel capable of accomplishing, because when someone we are connected to believes that we are capable, we believe it too. In short, attachment is the foundation of multiple types of success.
There are two excellent metaphors for attachment. First, attachment is an invisible string that crosses cities, states, oceans, and continents. This unseen bond allows children to feel loved, even when they are a great distance away.
Second, a strong attachment is like a revitalizing well of water in the midst of a scorching wasteland. Kind words submerge themselves deep into our children’s hearts and are later drawn upon for strength and comfort. Object relation therapists use the word introjection to describe the internal connection to others that continues throughout life.
Connection and Intimacy
Although nearly everyone longs for close connections, not everyone knows how to cultivate them. A sunflower requires water, oxygen, sunlight, rich soil, and time in order to blossom. Similarly, positive attachments require time, consistency, and mutual intimacy.
Although intimacy is an odd term for a book for preteens, our definition fits nicely. In this book, intimacy is defined as in-to-me-see. It is the act of allowing another person to peer into one’s inner world while simultaneously sharing one’s own heart. Intimacy covers the entire gambit of a person’s inner life by starting shallow and deepening over time. Attachment begins with face-to-face conversation, and is the glue that binds people together through all of the ups and downs of life.
For preteens, having safe adults and positive peers to share their inner world with is especially important. As we will see in this next goal, the people our children are closest to, have a big part in steering which direction they will go.
Goal #2: Talking for Change
Conversation is a key that unlocks positive life change and dynamic personal growth. Although the conversations in this book do not push for change directly, they do create an environment where growth is possible. Let me explain with a simple illustration. A car cruising down the highway in the wrong direction can easily get back on track with a few turns of the steering wheel. On the other hand, a car stuck in the mud, or at a broken standstill, requires a great deal effort to reach its destination−even if that car is pointed in the right direction.
Similarly, preteens, who are actively engaged in conversations with positive adults can be gently guided in the right direction. On the other hand, supporting youth who are checked-out is a daunting task. I know this from years of personal experience. Crossed arms, avoidance of eye contact, and a glazed-over look are barriers to growth that no amount of logic, lectures, or life-wisdom will penetrate. Reengagement is required first. Then, and only then, can growth occur. This book is about “fueling the car,” so that you can steer the conversation where it needs to go.
If you already have engaged kids and want to take the next steps, be sure to check out my book, 131 Creative Conversations for Families. This resource hones-in on value-based conversations that promote wisdom and maturity in thirteen different areas of life. However, because these conversations focus on growth and not engagement, it is a good idea to start with the conversations in this book, and to deepen your dialogue over time.
Goal #3: Conversation Build Social Skills
Basic social skills are no longer as basic as they once were, and many are becoming a lost art. Virtual relationships via text, e-mail, and social media are the new norm. Parents who spent their childhood playing dress-up with friends, creating imaginary worlds, and having outdoor adventures until the streetlights came on bemoan how their preteens gather together, only to zone-out in front of their electronic devices.
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These creative conversation starters will inspire your kids pause their electronics, grow their social skills, and develop lifelong relationships! Get your kids talking with this activity book the entire family will enjoy. In this highly-engaging, conversation starter book, you will discover: - Why conversations matter and connecting with others is important. - Three strategies to engage kids and keep the conversation going. - Five tools to help children develop their social skills. - How to use conversations to guide children toward positive change. Then, dive into 131 creative, engaging, and fun conversations that will get your kids engaged. This book is for children who desire to build face-to-face connections that develop into life-long friendships. It is also for parents, foster parents, teachers, coaches, youth pastors, mentors, and everyone who wants to help their kids to connect in an increasingly disconnected world! Conversation Starters Include: - If the zoo offered to let you keep one exotic animal as a pet, which animal would you take home with you? - If you were principal of your school for a day, what is one school rule that you would change? - No two snowflakes are exactly alike. No two people are the same either. What is something that makes you unique?