The Conversation Game Story
A teen’s venture
Hi! My name is Addie, and I am the founder of The Conversation Game.
I am also a high school student. My first year was pretty typical. I was a freshman, figuring out how high school worked. I got to meet a lot of new people. I was adjusting to a new workload, and discovering new after-school activities that I liked. However, by December, my first year had transitioned into something else. We heard about a new virus circling the globe and wondered when it would hit us. By March, schools in the United States had completely shut down. The trips that we had planned, dances that we were looking forward to, and games we couldn’t wait to see were all gone. The school was busy figuring out how to transition to online classes.
I generally consider myself an introvert. I usually do not mind doing things alone and am not fond of large events. But, while I was stuck at home, I realized just how much I needed to see my friends and how vital our conversations were to me. I struggled to figure out a new balance in a world where my peers didn’t surround me, where instead, I had to be the one to reach out.
I was one of the lucky kids during the pandemic because by the time my Sophomore year started, our school had figured out how to open in person several days a week while keeping us safe. It wasn’t always easy and looked a lot different, but it was worth it. I got to see my friends again.
After my experiences with being isolated, even just for that short period of time, I wondered if it was just difficult for me. I talked to my friends and began researching the long-term effects of isolation to see if other people had experiences like mine. I ended up doing a lot of research, including talking with experts in the field of teen psychology like Dr. Lisa Damour. I spoke to guidance counselors and friends that had moved around the world, where language and friendships were challenging. I learned that socialization is crucial to teenage health and development. Long-term isolation can lead to trouble sleeping, negative outlooks on life, depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. It can even lead to increased blood pressure and a weakened immune system.
It was clear socializing was important. However, I also knew that sometimes it could be really hard to reach out to start a conversation or strike up a chat over text. It can be terrifying for teens who don’t have a strong group of friends, suffer social anxiety, or don’t know how to start. When I looked into typical conversation starters for teens, they sounded a lot like what they were: parents attempting to start a conversation with their children, but in an adult voice, with adult goals.
An idea was born
After the interviews and completing the research, I knew that I wanted to create something different. I thought back to when I was a little kid, and this game I played at dinner with my family. We would take turns asking questions and passing around the conversation. Looking back, I realize my parents were teaching us how to listen and engage, but at the time, I just thought it was fun. I have always enjoyed games, and I believe they are powerful tools for connecting.
The Conversation Game was created to help teens take the first steps towards having conversations and making genuine connections. We hope that anyone struggling does not feel alone and has a place to start. After talking to parents and hearing how scared they were but unable to figure out where to start, I wanted it to be something parents could do with their children. However, I did not create this alone. I have had the help of friends who have laughed as we tried them, new friends who were willing to provide feedback, teachers who guided my progress, and professionals who patiently listened to my endless questions, and I am grateful to them all.
So, whether you are:
- A parent struggling to help your teen find their group of friends.
- A professional working with teens.
- A teacher trying to help your students find connections within the classroom.
- Or a teenager, just like me, a teen who gets anxious every time she sends a text message.
These cards are for you. Teen conversation starts, talking about things relevant to us.