If you’re not getting much more than a “yeah,” “nope,” or “fine” when you ask about your kid’s day at school, it might be time for some new conversations starters. (Trust us, we’re right there with you.)
So we set out to collect dozens of smart, easy, open-ended questions to ask your kids, so you don’t just get a yes or no answer.
We’ve thrown these out around our own dinner tables, and have been surprised by how much these 30+ questions really got our kids talking.
So, here’s to engaging dinner conversations…with the whole family.
Top photo by Jon Flobrant via Unsplash
Open-ended questions about feelings
We get it, getting your kids to open up about their feelings is downright impossible sometimes. So ask them something specific, and maybe in a way that gives them permission to air some grievances, even if it’s grievances with you.
-What made you laugh today?
-What has made you feel embarrassed lately?
-What’s the most challenging thing about being a member of our family?
-Can you tell us the best thing about being a part of this family?
-What is your biggest fear?
-What are three things you are feeling grateful for today?
-Which accomplishment are you most proud of?
-What can I do to make you feel more appreciated?
Open-ended questions about academics
As kids get older, it’s sometimes harder to keep track of how they’re doing in school. As a parent, we don’t always want to wait for a parent-teacher conference to know which subjects our child likes best and whether they’re struggling in other areas. Gauge how they’re feeling about what they’re learning, and it may give you a glimpse into their progress.
-Which teacher are you learning the most from?
-What do you like about your class? (And ask the opposite too.)
-What could your school do better to help you enjoy your experience there?
-What are you reading right now that you enjoy?
-Who is making school hard for you?
-What’s coming up at school soon that you’re excited (or nervous, worried, etc.) about?
Open-ended questions about the future
Let’s face it, no one wants to answer that dreaded question: What do you want to be when you grow up? Try these instead.
-If you could visit any country in the world, where would you go and why?
-If you had a million dollars, what would you spend it on?
-Would you ever get a tattoo? Color your hair? Get a piercing?
-Do you hope to be a parent someday? How many children do you want?
-How do you think the world will be different when you’re an adult?
-What is one thing you hope to change in the world when you grow up?
Open-ended questions about friendship
When you’re a kid, friendships are hard to navigate, and kids don’t always want to talk about their experiences with classmates and cliques, especially if they’re going through a difficult time with certain friends. Try to get your kids to open up to you, by asking them the easy questions first.
-What makes someone a good friend? (Or, a bad friend?)
-Who at your school would you like to get to know better?
-Tell me about someone who made you feel special today. What did they do or say?
-What was one nice thing you did for someone today?
-Do you know anyone at your school who’s being treated badly? How do you think they are feeling right now?
-How are your friends’ families different from ours?
-Which of your friends do you admire most? And, why?
Open-ended questions that challenge your kids
Make your questions FUN and it won’t seem like you’re pestering! Not every conversation has to be a serious one. You’re more likely to get your kids to open up if you can get them to crack a smile first.
-Is it ever okay to lie? (Explore other ethical quandaries like this — our kids love to play judge!)
-What is your life motto? Or, make one up if you don’t have one!
-Should your school allow kids your age to use cell phones during the day?
-What do you like the most about yourself?
-What do you like most about your brother/sister?
-What’s the most embarrassing thing I do?
-What’s your favorite family tradition?
-What’s your earliest memory?
-What is one thing you would change about our home?
-If you had to put one item from home into a time capsule what would it be, and why?
And, of course, if all else fails, our tried-and-true topic of conversation is to ask our kids to share one great thing and one not-so-good thing that happened in their day. This open-ended question works on everyone, from our preschoolers to our teens. Promise.