Tips to start conversations

  • Use open-ended questions when talking with your teen. Open-ended questions allow your teen to explain something or to tell a story. In other words, he/she can’t give a simple “yes” or “no” response.
  • Tell your own story. This sets an example for sharing your personal experience. Even if your teen doesn’t respond, hopefully he/she will feel comfortable sharing when the time is right.
  • Talk while doing other things, like running errands or cooking. This helps make conversations more natural and free-flowing. It also keeps your teen from expecting a “serious talk.”
  • Comment on something interesting around you, like something you saw on TV or heard on the radio. This can be especially helpful if you need to talk about a difficult topic.
  • Ask for advice. Your teen might know more than you think. This also helps your teen feel proud that you wanted his/her advice on a possibly difficult situation.
  • Have group conversations with family or friends. Invite siblings, your partner, other family members or friends to join the discussion.


  • “Tell me about your day.”
  • What did you enjoy about that movie we watched?”
  • “You wouldn’t believe what happened today! Let me tell you about it.”
  • >“I had the funniest dream last night. You won’t believe it.”
  • “Tell me about your day while I get dinner ready.”
  • “I’d love to hear all about that book you just read while we walk the dog.”
  • “Wow, those TV characters are in a serious fight. What would you do in that situation?”
  • “The lyrics in that song say some really powerful things. What do you think about them?”
  • “I feel badly that my friend’s mother passed away recently. What do you think I could do to help?”
  • “I’m trying to decide which color to paint the living room. What are your ideas?”
  • “I saw something on the news about bullying. What does everyone think can be done to help prevent it?”
  • “Your sister went through something similar to what you’re going through. How about we ask her how she handled the situation?”

Revised 2/2016

This webpage is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.
Adapted from "When Kids Won’t Talk: Conversation Openers for Parents" by Gene Beresin, MD, MA, of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds.

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