Engaging in conversations with your children from a young age can set the stage for open, honest conversation as they grow up. Open, honest conversations can help your children feel comfortable expressing their hopes, dreams, wishes, successes and failures to you. However, starting conversations isn’t always easy—especially with teens. Here are some helpful conversation starters for use with your teen.

Tips to start conversations Examples

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 me about your day.”

“What did you enjoy about that movie we watched?”

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.

“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.”

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.”

“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.”

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.

“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?”

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.

“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?”

Have group conversations with family or friends. Invite siblings, your partner, other family members or friends to join the discussion.

“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?”

Rev. 2/2016. Adapted from “When Kids Won’t Talk: Conversation Openers for Parents” by Gene Beresin, MD, MA, of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout 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.