With teenagers in the house, it can be tough to make this happen.
As a parent, perhaps you’ve tried getting your teens to talk – asking questions and making conversation – but they respond with a shrug of the shoulders or a one-word answer.
As discouraging as this might be, it’s important to be patient and develop an open line of communication with your teens.
If you do this, it will be much easier to iron out conflicts and talk about deeper issues when they arise.
The good news is that communication is a skill every parent can develop.
In this article, I’ll share with you 50 conversation starters for family gatherings and dinners you can use to bond with your teens.
(But first, make sure to download your free e-book below.)
How to talk to your teen
Adolescence can be a challenging time. As a parent, you’re in a good position to provide a safe and open space for your teenagers to communicate their fears, struggles, and dreams.
But your teens must feel comfortable talking to you. The best way to do this is to look for ways to connect with them.
Here are some tips to help you engage with your teens in day-to-day life:
- Listen actively and be fully present. Put your devices away. Show that you’re attentive by paraphrasing what they said and maintaining good eye contact. Research has proven that active listening can help teens open up.
- Don’t go overboard with your questions. Teenagers don’t want to be interrogated. Don’t make them feel like they have to spill every last detail about their life, friends, or school – unless they want to.
- Ask open-ended questions. Ask questions that begin with “why,” “how,” “what,” “what if,” or “describe,” instead of asking yes or no questions.
- Talk about their interests. Ask your teens about their hobbies and interests, then follow up with more questions related to those subjects.
50 family dinner topic starters
Let’s explore different family conversation starters that can help you connect with your teens.
The conversation starters are broken up into categories to help you get your family talking about the family values and topics you want to encourage most.
Research shows that friendships are critical for teens’ overall development.
This makes friendship a good topic for meaningful conversations.
Here are some questions you could ask your teens:
- “Who is your oldest friend, and how did you meet?” This is a great opportunity for you and your teens to bond over fond memories. You can also explore how the friendship withstood the test of time.
- “What qualities do you value most in a friend?” Help your teens set healthy expectations and standards when making and sustaining friendships.
- “Share one of the best memories you’ve had with a friend.” If possible, you can even ask your teens if they’re up for recreating the memory with you.
- “Is it better to have a few close friends or a large circle of acquaintances?” This question helps your teens gain a deeper understanding of their priorities in relationships.
- “What qualities do you think are essential for a lasting and meaningful friendship?” Prompt your teenagers to weigh which values are important to look for and practice. Doing so helps them develop healthy boundaries when making friends.
- “Share a story about a time when a friend provided support or made a significant impact in your life.” Asking your teens this question helps you better understand what form of support they prefer when they encounter challenging situations (e.g., a hug, words of encouragement).
- “Friendships can change over time. How have your friendships evolved, and how can you ensure that you maintain these friendships?” Discuss the dynamics of healthy friendships. This may include conflict resolution, effective communication, mutual support, etc.
- “Sometimes, conflicts arise between friends. How do you usually navigate those types of situations?” Conflict resolution is an important life skill to develop. You and your teens can take this opportunity to discuss how different conflicts can be resolved.
Importance of family
Cultivating a culture of trust and security in the family is vital if you want your teenagers to share their thoughts and concerns with you.
These questions will help you and your teens reflect on the importance of family:
- “What are some values our family holds dear?” Take this opportunity to get you and your teens on the same page in terms of family values.
- “Share a favorite family tradition and explain why it’s important to you.” Examples might include a trip to the beach every summer or a small celebration at the end of every school year.
- “How do you think our family could better support and care for one another?” A follow-up question could be, “What can I do to help you feel better if you’re having a bad day?”
- “What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from a family member?” You might then discuss how you and your teens can apply this lesson.
- “How has our family’s support and love influenced your personal growth and achievements?” Celebrate your teens’ achievements and let them know that you love them unconditionally.
- “Discuss a family value that you believe sets us apart and makes our family special.” You might also ask your teenagers how they’ve been practicing this value and how that has impacted them and those around them.
- “Discuss a time when our family faced a challenge together and how that experience strengthened our bond as a family unit.” Alternatively, you can ask what you (or your teens) could have done better to support the family in that situation.
Family traditions are activities and practices that symbolize your beliefs and values as a family.
These may be related to traveling, specific celebrations or events you organize, or volunteer work you do together. Or it may be a new tradition that you decide to create together.
Here are some questions about family traditions to ask your teens:
- “What is your favorite family holiday tradition, and why?” Something seemingly trivial, like helping to prepare a special dish or putting up decorations, might mean the world to your teens.
- “Share a memorable experience from a family vacation or trip.” You might decide to add activities or places your teenagers enjoyed to your next family trip.
- “Are there any unique cultural or religious traditions in our family? Why do you think they’re significant?” This question allows you and your teens to bond over shared traditions and beliefs.
- “What new traditions would you like to start as a family?” These traditions may or may not be related to religion or culture.
- “Talk about a tradition or custom from a different culture that you find interesting.” Encourage discussion around the beauty and uniqueness of other traditions and cultures. This can instill a sense of respect and admiration for people of different backgrounds.
- “Share a family recipe that has been passed down through generations and talk about its significance.” You can even suggest making the dish together for the next family gathering.
- “Discuss a family tradition you want to preserve and pass on to future generations.” This is an excellent opportunity to nurture a sense of love and respect for generational traditions that are significant to your family.
- “What are some of your favorite traditions, and why do you enjoy them?” Foster an appreciation and admiration for your family’s traditions by having your teens talk about the ones they like most.
- “Traditions can change or evolve over time. Are there any old ones you’d like to modify?” Encourage your teenagers to think critically and creatively about the traditions they practice. Ask them to suggest ways to modify these traditions to best reflect your family’s values and beliefs.
Adolescence is marked by rapid change, growth, and development.
During this time, teenagers are figuring out who they are and are learning to become comfortable with their identities.
Becoming a young adult can be challenging and confusing, so being supportive of your teens is important.
These questions can help you understand how your teens’ values, identity, and abilities have evolved over time:
- “How has being part of our family contributed to your personal growth?” This question helps your teens pinpoint the family values and principles that have played a role in their development.
- “Discuss a challenge you faced and how it helped you to become stronger.” Allow your teenagers to reflect on a challenge they overcame. It never hurts to remind them of their resilience.
- “Talk about a time when you stepped out of your comfort zone and the lessons you learned.” Take this opportunity to celebrate your teens’ bravery.
- “Discuss a hobby or activity that has helped you grow personally and brought you joy.” Look for ways to support your teens as they pursue their interests and hobbies.
- “Personal growth is a lifelong journey. Is there an aspect you’d like to work on or improve? How can I support you?” Help your teens to understand that many life skills and values can be nurtured through persistence. You can also let them know that you’re invested in their personal growth.
- “Let’s discuss our strengths and areas where we can grow.” Reinforce your teens’ confidence by encouraging them to identify their strengths. Then, encourage your teenagers to list practical ways to grow and improve in these areas.
- “Learning from our mistakes is an important part of personal growth. Is there a mistake you’ve made recently that you’d like to reflect on?” Encourage your teens to see mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve.
Dreams and aspirations
During adolescence, we learn that our dreams can become a reality.
It’s important to help your teens figure out what’s important to them.
Your teens will likely be sifting through many ideas, passions, and goals. So they need to know that they can talk to you and that you’ll be a positive and supportive sounding board.
These questions can encourage your teenagers to think about their ambitions and how they plan to achieve them:
- “What are your biggest dreams for yourself and for our family?” Knowing your teens’ ambitions and dreams opens up opportunities for you to support and empower them along the way.
- “Share a personal goal and discuss the steps you’re taking to achieve it.” Encourage your teens to start setting goals and to break down big dreams into smaller actionable steps.
- “How can we support each other in pursuing our dreams and aspirations?” Everyone seeks different forms of support. Something as simple as showing up for your teen’s basketball game could be a huge motivator for your teen.
- “Discuss a time when someone in our family achieved something significant and how it impacted all of us.” This can help to build a family culture that celebrates the successes of others.
- “Share a dream or aspiration you have for yourself that you haven’t yet pursued, and discuss what might be holding you back.” Acknowledge your teenagers’ fears and struggles, and remind them that you’ll always have their back if they need support or advice.
- “Sometimes it can be challenging to pursue our dreams. Is there any guidance you need to reach your goals?” Your teens’ needs are unique to their goals. Certain goals may require mentorship or financial support. Others may simply call for encouragement.
- “Dreams can evolve over time. Have your aspirations changed recently? If so, what sparked that change?” Enable your teens to understand that changes in goals or ambitions are a part of life. This encourages them to be open to new opportunities.
Death in the family
Grief is a challenging but necessary topic to tackle with your teens.
It’s vital to be there for your teens to help them navigate the feelings that loss and death can cause.
Find a good time to discuss the following questions with your teenagers:
- “What are some ways we can honor and remember loved ones who have passed away?” Do your best to put your teens’ responses into action. Honoring these loved ones could be a significant step in the mourning process for your teens.
- “How can we support each other during times of grief and loss?” The grieving journey looks different for everyone, even more so for teens who are learning to process difficult emotions.
- “Share a story about a family member who has passed away and the impact he or she had on your life.” A conversation around this topic can invoke a sense of gratitude for the life and legacy a late family member has left behind.
- “I’ve been thinking about our loved one who has passed away. How do you feel about it? Is there anything you’d like to share?” Asking your teens this question validates their emotions and normalizes the grieving process. This enables them to understand that it’s okay to be sad.
- “How can we celebrate and cherish the memories of those we’ve lost?” Work with your teens to build healthy coping mechanisms when dealing with loss as a family.
- “How has losing a family member affected our family’s dynamic and relationships?” Validate the fact that the loss of a loved one can have a significant impact on every member of the family.
Drugs and substance abuse
Statistics show that alcohol and drug abuse are major problems.
So it’s vital to create a safe space for your teens to share their opinions about substance abuse and other risky behaviors.
You can ask them the following questions:
- “What are your thoughts on drug use and its impact on individuals and families?” Avoid lecturing your teens. Instead, prompt them to think critically about the impact of substance abuse.
- “What can we do to support those struggling with addiction?” Encourage your teens to think about ways they can support their peers who are trying to overcome an addiction.
- “How do you think the media and popular culture influence our attitudes toward drugs and alcohol?” Cultivate an awareness that songs, movies, and social media can alter your teens’ perception of drugs and alcohol.
- “What do you know about the dangers of drugs, and how can we support each other in making responsible choices?” Give your teens an opportunity to share what they’ve learned or heard about the consequences of substance abuse.
- “Do you feel comfortable talking to us about the concerns or questions you may have regarding drugs and alcohol?” Reiterate that your teens can always share their concerns with you without fear of judgment.
- “What are some strategies we can use as a family to educate ourselves about the risks of substance abuse?” Create a collaborative environment for you and your teens to learn about the dangers of substance abuse as a family.
Parenting teens is challenging.
Ultimately, how well you and your teens communicate will influence the relationship you have with them.
So always approach your teens with a genuine interest in their opinions and thoughts.
Hopefully, these conversation starters will be a catalyst for more meaningful interactions with your teens!
(If your teens sometimes lack motivation, don’t forget to download your free e-book below.)