If, on the other hand, you are trying to engage a reluctant teenager in conversation, try this:
- 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.
- Prepare your questions ahead of time so you can have an impromptu conversation.
- 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.
- Use TV shows, magazines, movies, books, current events, etc. for topics.
- Use open-ended questions, which don’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer.
- Keep an open mind. These starter conversations are for sharing ideas.
- 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.
- 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 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 cherub. If you have any Conversation Starters the others can use for themselves, share those, too.