Here are 17 unique conversation starters that are all open-ended questions to really get your Tween or Teen to open up.
— YoungMinds (@YoungMindsUK) May 13, 2019
As always, we recommend most questions asked to our children to be in an open-ended format, so that we drive more meaningful conversations.
Closed-ended questions are not great conversation starters for kids (especially Teens) as many of us parents know.
17 Conversation Starters to Check-In on your Child’s Mental Health
These are great questions you can come back to again and again to check in on your child’s mental state and let him or her know that you’re there if he or she needs to talk. Sometimes kids want advice and solutions, but often they just want someone to listen, and these questions can help them know that your door is always open. Here are 17 great questions to get you started:
Who are the people you feel safe with?
This is a great question that can tell you not only who your child feels safe with, but also help your child identify who he or she does NOT feel safe with.
If you could change anything in your life what would it be?
This is a fun question to come back to regularly. Our kids are constantly changing. Interests are changing. Goals are changing. Ask them to identify what he or she would change in life and then (if he or she is open to it) find a way to make that desire a reality.
What are you most dreading this week?
While this question is, inherently, negative, the reality is that we all dread things. This can help your child open up about what could be bothering him or if there are any big issues keeping him awake at night.
Is there anything you want to talk about?
While this isn’t the open-ended question that we usually recommend, it DOES let your child know that you’re available if he or she needs you. The door is open.
What difficulties are you facing now?
Again, kind of a negative question, but in an open-ended way, it asks your child to identify challenges that he or she is facing. You know your child and probably have a sense that something might not be right. This is a great question to help you uncover the problem.
What are you most looking forward to this week?
You can even change this question and make your child think even more by asking him or her to identify THREE things he or she is looking forward to. Either way, the goal is to help your child think through one (or more) specific things he or she is looking forward to.
How do you feel about things changing?
Most people don’t like change. For some it makes us uncomfortable, whereas others try to avoid it altogether. It’s important to know how your child feels about change, and specifically, how he or she reacts when change happens. Whether your child is experiencing change right now or just anticipating some down the road, it’s important to know how your child feels about change so you can prevent any of the negative reactions to change.
When was the last time you were very happy?
Help your child identify the things/activities that make him or her very happy. What was he or she doing? What was he or she NOT doing? Who was he or she with? The list goes on and on. But by identifying what brings joy, you can create more of it in your life.
What can I do to help?
The answer may be nothing. Your child may not want or need help. But at least he or she will know the door is open.
It’s okay to keep stuff private, but did you want to tell me more about “x”?
This is another way or letting your teen or teen know the door is open. It also reassures your child that it’s okay to be private, but that you’re available just in case.
Is there a lot of bullying that goes on in your school?
This is a way that you can make it easier for your child to tell you if he or she is being bullied, or just picked on. Or if it’s happening to someone he or she is friends with. And sometimes it’s not even the kids, themselves, doing the bullying.
Again, this question will make it easier to open the doors to communication around a tough topic.
What makes you feel calm?
We all have our usual go-to’s for how to relax. But what ELSE can you do to feel calm?
I can tell that you really like “X”, what about it do you love so much?
I love this question because it can help you peel back the layers on the onion (your kid) and help you better understand why they like the activity that they partake in regularly.
Is there anyone who is upsetting you?
This is similar to the question about being bullied or picked on. However, it’s possible that it’s someone outside of school upsetting your child. Though it’s not an open-ended question, it does open the door to talking to your family if there’s a problem with someone.
Where is a place you feel safe?
Hopefully your child feels safe and secure in your own home. If he or she doesn’t, then start there to identify why. Assuming he or she feels safe at home, though, where ELSE does your child feel safe?
What are you worried about when you lie in bed and can’t sleep?
We all have worries and things that keep us up at night. This question helps you to identify what’s going through your own child’s head and (if they want) come up with a solution, together.
How do you feel about growing up? What excites you and what scares you?
You could change this question to asking your child to identify two things that are exciting and two things that are scary. And this is a great one to come back to regularly, since it’s always going to be changing with each new milestone in life.
Conclusion: 17 Great Conversation Boosters for Mental Health
The most important thing we can do, as parents, is to talk to our kids, to engage them in meaningful conversation. This will help us more quickly and easily identify if there is something off in their behavior or if their mental health may be impacted in some way. And while your knee-jerk reaction may be to want to “fix” it for your kids, don’t hesitate to ask what they need first. Do they need someone to fix it? Or do they just want someone to talk to?
The 17 great conversation boosters for mental health are:
- Who are the people you feel safe with?
- If you could change anything in your life, what would it be?
- What are you most dreading this week?
- Is there anything you want to talk about?
- What difficulties are you facing now?
- What are you most looking forward to this week?
- How do you feel about things changing?
- When was the last time you were very happy?
- What can I do to help?
- It’s okay to keep stuff private, but did you want to tell me more about “x”?
- Is there a lot of bullying that goes on in your school?
- What makes you feel calm?
- I can tell that you really like “X”, what about it do you love so much?
- Is there anyone who is upsetting you?
- Where is a place you feel safe?
- What are you worried about when you lie in bed and can’t sleep?
- How do you feel about growing up? What excites you and what scares you?
What conversation do you like to have with your kids to gauge their mental status? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation over in our Facebook Group.