Many of us have difficulty coming up with things to talk about at family gatherings. Let’s face it — not everyone is the life of the party! Some of us are more introverted than others.
But if you’re a senior living in Cincinnati who is looking for ideas about holiday conversation starters, you’ve come to the right place. Today, let’s look at a few techniques you could use to keep the discussion lively at your family’s holiday dinner table this year.
Be the family historian
Sometimes, it may appear that some young people aren’t interested in learning about and preserving our family histories. But what are we doing to encourage them?
Instead of sitting back and waiting to be asked about your memories, look for opportunities to incorporate your life’s anecdotes and remembrances into conversations at the dinner table. Dig out those family photo albums and share memories from your childhood or youth.
Say, for example, your granddaughter recently earned her nursing degree and your mother was a nurse in the Second World War. You might bring that up and recount to your granddaughter some of your mother’s nursing stories or other wartime experiences.
Or, you might look around for attributes that remind you of long-gone relatives. Someone’s blue eyes might remind you of your uncle’s blue eyes, or someone’s voice might sound a lot like your aunt’s. Pass along these little tidbits; they can often to lead to questions about what so-and-so was like, or about your childhood memories of them.
Ask open-ended questions
This is especially true if you’re trying to coax conversation out of a shy grandchild. Instead of asking “How’s school?” (you’re more likely to get a, “Fine,” in return, instead of substantive discussion), you might try asking “What are you studying right now?” Follow up with, “What do you like most about ...?”
The more open-ended the question, the more likely you’ll find nooks and crannies to explore in conversation. And remember, ask your grandchildren about things you know interest them —play to their excitement! Learn about their latest toy, their favorite TV show or their friends. The more you show willingness to engage kids on their own terms, the more likely they are to open up to you.
Don’t feel self-conscious about letting yourself act like a little kid again! If you see your grandkids playing with toys off in a corner, go ask if you can play with them. And let your grandchild lead the game.
The best holiday conversations happen
when you least expect them.
Learn the stories behind their action figures, playsets, or games, no matter how strange or silly they may seem. Don’t let your grandchildren feel like you’re judging them. The more you engage in your grandchildren’s world on their own terms, the more likely they’ll be to open up to you.
Tease, but don’t embarrass
Another way to get the conversation flowing is to bring up funny stories about things your kids did or said when they were your grandchildren’s age. Just be careful — there’s a fine line between relating a humorous family anecdote and unnecessarily embarrassing a member of the family.
You could also bring up embarrassing stories from your own youth. Play the clown — tell your family members about goofy things you and your siblings did when you were kids. Don’t be afraid to let your adult children and grandkids hear about your endearing misadventures.
Get a game going
Whether it’s a conversation starter like Scattergories, Apples to Apples or Taboo, or a simple board game that a lot of people can play at once, like Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, or Clue, games are always good ways to get people laughing and chatting around the table after dinner.
Or, break out the cards. Pinochle, euchre, Uno, or even a friendly family game of penny-ante poker can help everyone relax and have fun together.
Use these tips to have a warm, fun holiday gathering.
The best holiday conversations happen when you least expect them. The hints above may help you get the ball rolling, but once everyone is relaxed and talking, you’ll inevitably be surprised by the turns the conversations take.
If you’re a senior living in Cincinnati who’ll be hosting or attending a family holiday gathering, keep your ears and eyes peeled for opportunities to engage your family members. And keep those family stories at the ready.