I sometimes find myself at a loss for what to talk about with my two nieces, ages 9 and 11, since I haven’t yet experienced that age with my own children.
For those of you who spend time with young girls (and these are certainly applicable to boys too!), here are 10 topics of conversation to show them what’s inside matters most, and possibly inspire them at the same time:
To Ask: Have you thought about what you want to be when you grow up? What do you think would be the most interesting profession?
To Share: Talk about what you wanted to be as a child, what you do now, and if applicable, what you dream of doing in the future.
To Ask: Do you like books? What’s your favorite?
To Share: Tell them about a book that moved you the most when you were their age. Talk about a book you’ve read recently and any lessons you learned from it. For example, I just finished Wonder by R.J. Palacio and loved the good rule of life - Be a Little Kinder than Is Necessary (originally from J.M. Barrie's, The Little White Bird).
To Ask: Do you have a best friend? How did you meet? What makes him/her special?
To Share: Here’s a great opportunity to talk about why friendships are important and how good friends have impacted your life. You can also talk about “mean kids” and "nice kids." My mom taught me a good rule when I was very young -- to feel sorry for the "mean kids" because if they have to make someone else feel like crap to feel good about themselves, they've got a lot of issues. That it had nothing to do with who I was, and everything to do with who they were. So instead of getting angry or frustrated, I just wondered what was going on in their brains that made them tick the way they did.
To Ask: What’s your favorite part of the day at school? Your favorite teacher? If you had to grade your school 1 to 10, 10 being the best, what grade would you give it? What would you change?
To Share: Tell them about your favorite teacher and what you liked most about him or her. Tell them about your favorite classes and what made them special.
To Ask: If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would it be? Where have you already been recently and what was your favorite experience?
To Share: Talk about your favorite places and the wonders you've seen.
To Ask: What type of music do you like to listen to? What instrument would you want to play if you could magically play it like a master?
To Share: Play your favorite music for them. Talk about what instrument you learned to play as a child, or share a memory of music from your past.
To Ask: Do you believe in magic? What would you change if you had a magic wand and could fix anything?
To Share: What would YOU change if you had a magic wand and could fix anything?
8. FREE TIME
To Ask: What would do you like to do most in your free time?
To Share: Tell them what kinds of things you did when you were younger and how the world has or hasn't changed in that respect. Talk about what you like to do in your free time now.
To Ask: What sports or activities are you involved in these days? Which is your favorite?
To Share: This is a great chance to bring up the importance of being a team player. And why practice makes you better - that it takes 10,000 hours to master any activity (from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success).
10. FAVORITE MEMORIES
To Ask: What are some of your favorite memories?
To Share: Talk about some of your favorite memories from childhood. Share your happiest moments.