Tips for parents of teens:
- Don’t push. Teens need to feel like they have the choice to say no, and even if that’s in conversation, you can respect that by not pushing.
- Ask “what…?” instead of “why…?”. Asking “why” questions can feel accusatory while asking “what” helps them think through what they want to say.
- Don’t be judgmental or critical. That’s the fastest way to shut down the conversation.
- Be willing to talk any time. Somehow, teens love speaking at the most inopportune times (e.g., 11:45 at night when you’re exhausted). You may lose the opportunity altogether if you shut down the conversation when they are ready to talk.
- Don’t hog the conversation. The conversation should include listening; teens have a lot going on inside their heads!
- Be curious and willing to learn something new. Some teens feel like adults are narrow-minded or unwilling to consider a different perspective. This shuts down a willingness to communicate and makes it hard for them to trust you.
- Validate how they feel, even if you don’t understand. They may repel your affirmation, but they need to hear that you love them, that you’re proud of them, and that their feelings are legitimate.
- Tell them you read this article and are trying to connect with them. Transparency will go a long way with teens. If they love or hate these questions, you can ask them to come up with the questions they prefer!
- Having great conversations can be one of the best ways to connect with kids. Knowing what to say is one element, but knowing how to continue a conversation and end it on a high note is a skill you can take with you for life. Here’s how!
Conversation Starters for Teens
What makes you feel good about yourself?
How do you deal with stress?
What is the best conversation topic for the middle of the night?
If you were a candy bar, what candy bar would you be?
What’s the dumbest miscommunication you’ve ever had with a friend?
Is there something you enjoy that I don’t know about?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Do you plan to prioritize a career or family when you finish college? Do you think it’s possible to balance both?
Do you have anyone you’re crushing on right now?
What country do you think has the best government?
What do you think we should be doing to care for the planet?
What’s your opinion on gun control?
Why do you think the US has the largest prison population?
What do you think would help decrease homelessness?
What program or club do you wish your school had more money for?
Would you ever date someone with different religious beliefs than you? Why or why not?
Do you think it’s ok to have secrets in relationships?
What do you think about cryptocurrency? Should it be regulated?
Would you ever be vegan? Vegetarian?
What makes you happy?
Who do you eat lunch with at school?
What bands are you listening to lately? Can we listen to your favorite song? What do you like about this song?
What’s your favorite show right now? Who do you identify with in the show? Do you have a crush on any of the characters?
What teacher drives you crazy? What do they do that you dislike? How could they be a better teacher?
What teacher do you like best this year? What do you like about them and their teaching style?
How would you describe your style? Do you feel like other teens are accepting of your class or critical?
Which subject do you think would be the most fun to teach?
How do you respond when your friends have drugs?
What is everybody talking about right now?
Do you think teens have it harder or more accessible today than when I was a teen?
Describe your perfect day.
What makes a good friend? Do you feel like you have any friends like that?
Would I be surprised to see how you interact with people at school? Do you feel you have more freedom to be yourself with your friends?
Do you feel I’m more or less strict than your friends’ parents?
What’s your favorite part of the day?
Is there anything you are looking forward to right now?
What do you dream of doing when you’re older? Is there anything you can do now to help you accomplish that goal?
What’s an accomplishment that you are proud of?
What’s something you wish you knew?
What language would you like to learn? Why?