These Conversation Starters Will Help You Stay Connected With Loved Ones — Without Talking About the Coronavirus

These topics will help you focus on the positive, rather than the uncertainties.

Branislav Nenin / Shutterstock
Branislav Nenin / Shutterstock

While it’s important to remain informed (from trusted news sources) about key information on the coronavirus, taking an occasional break from discussing the news is good for our well-being. And shifting focus to other conversation topics can give our minds a break from the stress and uncertainties around us. Whether it’s a funny discussion at the dinner table with children or a long, heartfelt phone call with a friend, dialogue that focuses on the positive, rather than the negative, can help us carry on during this challenging time. 

We asked members of our Thrive community to share the conversation topics that are helping them recharge and connect with others. We hope their ideas will encourage you to dive into a deeper dialogue with the people you care about. 

Life goals

“My daughter is home from college and wasn’t happy about leaving school six weeks earlier than expected. The first two weeks were rocky, but this new reality has deepened our appreciation for one another. For the first time, I am living with her as an adult — an adult who has gained amazing life experience over the past year. We’ve been having conversations about goals and post-pandemic life. I’m so grateful to have this time with her.”

—Carrie McEachran, executive director, Sarnia, ON, Canada  

Dreams

“During the pandemic, many people are having strange, intense dreams. As an author and therapist with a deep interest in dreams, I’ve been talking to my friends and family about theirs. I’ve found that the majority of these dreams have coronavirus themes, like being trapped in a confined space, facing large, overwhelming forces, and even dying. My daughter had a dream in which she spoke to the grim reaper aboard an abandoned cruise ship. Fortunately, he spoke in a high-pitched southern drawl and decided to spare her, so the dream had a mix of fear and humour. Talking about dreams has helped me and my loved ones connect with our concerns in a way that feels both intimate and manageable.”

—Leslie Ellis, author and psychotherapist, Palm Desert, CA/Vancouver, B.C., Canada

The environment

“One of the topics my family loves to discuss is the state of the planet since the global shutdown. With clearer waterways and cleaner air, there is less pollution and the planet is healing. We like to talk about how we can increase our awareness and take better care of the world we live in.”

—Sharan Hildebrand, vice president, Chicago IL

Music

“These days, conversation feels so much more honest, reflective, and inspiring. As a harp teacher, I’ve noticed that many of my students are using their instruments as their voices, and are expressing emotional energy in a new and productive way, without any guilt or shame. We often laugh with relief as we freely ‘play’ our anger, fear, or grief. Through music, we are embracing the fullness of who we are with gratitude, joy, and love.”

—Amy Camie, certified clinical musician, St. Louis, MO

Personal growth

“I’ve been setting up virtual walks with my friends, in which we talk about what we’re doing to grow our businesses and how we want to grow ourselves. We talk about how we’re using this time to do things our schedules didn’t allow us to do before.”

—Cheryl Lynn Mobley, founder and CEO, Springtown, TX

Creativity

“I recently read Play by Dr. Stuart Brown, which offers self-reflection questions related to joy and play. I’ve been talking to friends and family about the role of play in their lives and how we have lost it over the years. Now, we’ve started exploring how to use this extra time during COVID-19 to reignite what we truly value, and how we can reconnect with our creative, playful souls. Dance, in particular, has stood out as something many of us have been missing in our lives, so we’ve started doing some TikTok dances and other dance-related activities. It’s been so uplifting to see family members and friends start ‘playing’ again — my mom even challenged me to a lip sync battle!” 

—Tricia Wolanin, community wellness consultant and psychologist, Bury St. Edmunds, U.K.

Work-life integration and identity

“The most engaging conversations I’ve had lately have to do with identity. Many people build their personal identities around what they do for a living, but during this time of isolation — when, for many, work is no longer what it used to be — we’ve been forced to reevaluate. Should we still identify ourselves based on what we do, or are we deeper than that? Is there more to life than our activities?” 

—Stephen P. Brown, conductor, U.K. and U.S.A.   

Well-being

“I’ve been playing online games with old friends and reliving our memories through video calls and pictures. We’ve been discussing our health and well-being, and bonding with each other although we are apart.”

—V. Rashmi Rao, content writer and digital marketer, Hyderabad, India

Intentions

“Instead of running in a million different directions, my husband, our six-year-old, and I now take our time with breakfast. We don’t have to rush out to school or work — instead, we take time to set intentions for the day. We talk about how we want to feel and how we want to make each other feel. This time has led to new conversations about how we communicate and treat one another.” 

—Lisa Pezik, business strategist, Ancaster, ON, Canada

The past, present, and future

“I’ve used the past few weeks of home time to really reconnect with myself and my family. I’ve been able to sit down at the dinner table every night with my parents and siblings and reflect on our days — something I never get to do during the school year when I’m away. I’ve taken the time to find little things that spark joy within myself and my family, and really learning what each person enjoys. We’ve been talking a lot about what we are thankful for and the things we look forward to in the future, as well as stories from my parents’ childhoods that I never heard before.”

—Madison Lander, student and writer, Chicago, IL

Books

“I’m taking the lead on creating a virtual book club with my coworkers so we can stay connected and engage in conversation that isn’t related to work. We thought it would be fun to vote on books to read together, and then video call once a week to discuss what we’ve read. I’ve found that having a specific item or topic to bond over, such as reading the same book at the same time, enhances virtual conversations and connections in a meaningful way.” 

—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO

Travel

“When we first learned we wouldn’t be able to go on our spring break trip, my family and I tried to stay upbeat and took advantage of online virtual travel opportunities. We explored museums online, watched the National Geographic channel, and checked out expedition cruise videos. We quickly decided to hold a travel bucket list night. My husband, two children, and I each had a week to research and think about which destinations we wanted to add to our family travel bucket list. The goal was to prioritize the locations we most wanted to visit and sketch out a timeline of when we will get to each place.” 

—Victoria Hardison-Sterry, travel advisor, Celebration, FL

Fitness

“My family and I have started to discuss our push-up skills. There is a bit of a competition going on between my husband, my two kids, and I about who can do the most. It is a fun way to laugh and do something healthy for our bodies. And at the end of each day, we come together at the dinner table to talk about our favorite parts of the day, or as a good friend of mine has said, ‘our cherries and our pits.’ These days we are mostly talking about the cherries, and leaving out the pits.”

—Kristel Bauer, founder, Chicago, IL

What kinds of conversations are helping you stay connected and feel recharged? Share them with us in the comments! 

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