Following up my post about the pleasures of being privy to a lot of Nerd Small Talk and getting like-minded kids together enjoying each other’s company, there are certainly times when Non-Nerd Small Talk is going to be required.
You can help your child or teen practice general small talk at dinner or in the car. I talk to kids about how to expand an answer. For example, “did you go anywhere fun last weekend?”
Instead of a one-word yes or no, kids can say something like, “Yes, we went to the beach. Did you go anywhere?” or “No, we just stayed home for the weekend, what did you do?” Following a statement with a question is how to keep a conversation going.
Your child or teen should have some basic information and knowledge about general topics, such as what is going on in sports, the popular online celebrities (think YouTube and Tik Tok), what everyone is watching on streaming services, etc.
Many kids who love Nerd Small Talk have very passionate interests and prefer to talk only about those topics. You can help your child gauge how much another child is willing to discuss those topics by teaching your child to ask a simple question. For example, “Do you like Minecraft a little or a lot?” If the other child says “a lot” you are good to go. If they say a little, teach your child to stay on the topic for just a short time and then change the topic by asking about what the other child likes to do. If the other child says they don’t play Minecraft at all (or any other passionate interest), then direct your child to leave the topic and ask questions until there is common ground.
Teach your child how to recognize the signs that someone has lost interest in a topic or conversation (the picture below is a good example of uninterested body language with a happy talker not reading the cues).
With anything, practice makes better. Picking up a box of chat cards or downloading many of the conversation starters you can find online is another way to support the skills that kids need to navigate conversations in any environment.