Talking To Teens: Conversation Starters and Stoppers

How would you like to have free-flowing conversations with your teen? If you already find talking to teens easy, use the topics below for additional ideas.

If, on the other hand, you are trying to engage a reluctant teenager in conversation, try this:

  1. Begin with baby steps. Make your talks short and sweet in the beginning. Chat for a moment or two, and then excuse yourself. If your teen wants to continue the conversation, he’ll follow you out of the room. If he doesn’t, he won’t feel any pressure. It will be a pleasant experience for both of you.
  2. Prepare your questions ahead of time so you can have an impromptu conversation.
  3. Ask questions that require more than a one-syllable response. Don’t ever bother with a question that can be answered with a “Yes” or “No.” The answer will be One-And-Done, putting an end to the conversation.
  4. Use TV shows, magazines, movies, books, current events, etc. for topics.
  5. Use open-ended questions, which don’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer.
  6. Keep an open mind. These starter conversations are for sharing ideas.
  7. This type of conversation is not a disguised teachable moment. If you don’t respect the conversation, it will be harder to engage your teen the next time.
  8. End with an affectionate statement. “I love you.” “You’re clever.” “That’s quite a mind you’ve got there.” “You make me proud.” “I enjoy talking to you.”

The more short, pleasant interactions you have with your teen, the more positive moments you rack up together. As those moments increase, so will your teen’s belief that you understand her. She will be more inclined to participate in a difficult conversation if she believes you’ll listen.

Try these Conversation Starters:

  • Who is your best/worst teacher this year?
  • Describe your last period class. What’s the teacher like? How hard do you think the class is going to be compared to last year’s class?
  • Which class is going to give your best friend trouble?
  • How does (best friend) feel/think about (controversial news topic)? What do you think about that?

Avoid these Conversation Stoppers:

(These take so little effort on your part, your teen will think you aren’t really interested)

  • How was school?
  • Do you like your teachers?
  • Did you have fun?
  • Do you like your classes?

You are invited to read an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Awesome Mom Communication Handbook: How To Keep Your Daughter From Slamming the Door.

In the comments, please share a Conversation Stoppers your parents used with you, or you use with your kid. If you have any Conversation Starters the others can use for themselves, share those, too.

 

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2 comments on “Talking To Teens: Conversation Starters and Stoppers
  1. Sarah Walsh says:

    Great tips! I find the best time to “chat” is while I’m emptying the dishwasher in the morning and my two high school girls are eating breakfast. I’ll mention something that happened in the news and usually one of them will offer their opinion. Once one of them starts talking, the other will add her two cents and then bring up something else. The next best time of day to reach them is right after school (when I’m on carpool duty), especially if there are other girls getting in the car. Usually I glean a lot of info about their day by their conversations with their friends – I think they forget that I’m even in the car. It’s nice to gain insight into their lives without having to poke or prod the information out of them. Even though they’re 14 and 16, I always go into their room to kiss them goodnight and sometimes they’ll bring up an issue or want to talk about something happening the next day. On the rare occasions that we’re able to sit down to dinner together, sometimes I’ll ask them what act of kindness they did that day, or what act of kindness was done for them. This usually generates eye rolls from my older girls who have homework pending and can’t wait to leave the dinner table, but my 10 year old enjoys this type of discussion and gets the ball rolling (and we “force” the older girls to stay and contribute to the conversation!).

    • Deborah says:

      You are spot on with all your strategies! I had to laugh when I read the part about the car conversations. As a teacher on hall duty, sometimes I felt like I had on an invisibility cloak. Students would stand right next to me describing incidents that I wasn’t supposed to be privy to. And yes, somehow that cloak accompanied me to the car when my daughter and her friends were in the back seat. BTW, I’m a big fan of Goodnight Kisses.

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