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Parenting Teens - Christian Family Resources

How to Get Your Teenager Talking

  • Whitney Hopler Contributing Writer
  • Published Jun 22, 2014
How to Get Your Teenager Talking

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jonathan McKee’s new book Get Your Teenager Talking: Everything You Need to Spark Meaningful Conversations (Bethany House Publishers, 2014).

Conversations between teens and adults can be awkward, so teens will often avoid talking much with the adults in their lives, leaving parents to feel frustrated by the lack of communication. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Teens actually do have a lot to say, and they want to be heard. They will open up and start talking to adults who know how to approach conversations with them wisely.

You can get your teenagers talking by relying on the Holy Spirit to help you ask wise questions and listen well to your teens’ answers. Here’s how you can do so, plus some questions that can serve as springboards to interesting conversations with your teens:

Ask interesting questions that require more than a one-word answer. Avoid asking questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” – such as “Was school fun today?” Instead, plan ahead for the next opportunity you’ll have to talk with your teens, preparing questions that aren’t boring (such as asking about a controversial story that’s currently in the news) and that cover topics that interest your teens (rather than just what interests you).

Listen and notice. Pay close attention to the thoughts and feelings that your teens choose to share with you. Eliminate distractions when your teens are talking so you can fully focus on listening to them carefully. Seek to learn more about your teens each time you talk together. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you notice opportunities to talk so you can take advantage of them.

Ask who they would text, if they could text anyone in the world right now and be guaranteed a response, and what they would ask that person. This will reveal information about who and what most captures your teens’ attention.

Ask what one world evil they would destroy if possible, and why. This will inspire your teens to think about what role they could play in helping to solve the world’s problems.

Ask why they chose the outfits they’re wearing right now. This will tell you something about the images your teen are trying to communicate to others, since teens often use clothing as a way of presenting themselves to the world in a certain way.

Ask what songs are on their current playlists, and why. This will give you insight into your teens’ feelings, which are often reflected in the type of music they choose to listen to.

Ask what makes someone popular among the people they know, and how their personal qualities compare to the characteristics that make teens popular. This is a good opportunity to discuss the difference between external qualities (such as looks) and internal qualities (such as character) and inspire your teen to think about what’s truly worth pursuing.

Ask what their favorite phone app is and what it does. This will tell you about their habits on the phone, where many teens spend a great deal of time.

Ask about what family members do for them that help them out the most. This will show you what your teens perceive as being helpful, which may be surprising for you and can show you how to help them in ways that strengthen your relationships with them.

Ask them to name a past accomplishment that they’re proud of, as well as something they would like to accomplish in the future. This will encourage your teens to think about what’s important to them and give you opportunities to affirm the good values that they want to pursue.

Ask them about where they would go on vacation if they could choose anywhere in the world for a free trip. This reveals important information about what types of experiences your teens value the most in their lives.

Ask them what they would invent, and why, if they could invent anything. This helps you understand their interests and gives you an opportunity to encourage their creativity.

Ask about their favorite sites on the Internet, and what they enjoy about visiting those websites. This will give you valuable information about your teens’ online lives, which reflect their values.

Ask them to name some friends who inspire them. This will get your teens thinking about how much their friends can influence them – for better or for worse – and encourage them to choose friends who are good influences.

Ask them to describe one thing that God has been teaching them lately, and how that is changing their lives. This will help your teens reflect on God’s work in their lives, which will strengthen their faith.

Ask them about the best dream and worst nightmare they can remember. This will tell you about some of their deep thoughts and feelings, which are often expressed in dreams or nightmares.

Ask them to describe something funny that always makes them laugh. This will help you understand your teens’ sense of humor and how you can best enjoy some good laughs with them, which will strengthen your relationships with them.

Ask what they do to relax. This will let you know what helps your teen deal with stress, which gives you valuable information to use to help them when they feel overwhelmed.

Ask if they could break one bad habit, what habit they would change, and why. This gets your teens thinking critically about their choices, the consequences of those choices, and how to make wise decisions that will lead to healthy lives.

Ask their opinion of the biggest misconception people have about teenagers. This will encourage your teens to consider their reputations and think strategically about how to make those reputations they best they can be.

Ask them what one question they would most like to ask God, and why. This will reveal valuable information about their relationships with God.

Ask them each to tell you one thing they wish people knew or understood about them, but don’t think people do. This encourages your teens to open up about real issues about which they feel unheard and helps you get to know and understand them better.

Adapted from Get Your Teenager Talking: Everything You Need to Spark Meaningful Conversations, copyright 2014 by Jonathan McKee. Published by Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Ada, Mich., 

Jonathan McKee is an expert on youth culture and the author of more than a dozen books, including The Guy's Guide to God, Girls, and the Phone in Your Pocket and The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers. He has 20 years of youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide. He also writes about parenting and youth culture while providing free resources at Jonathan, his wife, Lori, and their three kids live in California.

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Follow her on Twitter @WhitneyHopler.

Publication date: June 24, 2014