Conversation Starters for Family Discussions
Spending more time with your kids might mean you're so worn out that you're all on screens more. But what if you could easily start more meaningful conversations? What if you could ask questions that helped you and your child to connect on a deeper level? What if you could engage your child with interesting topics that they enjoyed and even learned from, without any lecturing? You can! You just need to remember three simple things.
Ask good questions.
Commit to listening and not lecturing.
Enjoy the discussion and stay curious!
Don’t shy away from expressing your opinions; kids are often curious what parents think. Just be sure that you listen first, and that you listen more than you talk.
If you notice that you're feeling a strong need to make a point, take a breath. That usually leads to lecturing, which will make your child tune you out. There's no threat here, and nothing to lose. It's just a conversation, where you practice listening and enjoying your child. Your child is likely to learn some terrific life lessons from discussing these questions, but that's a process of working out their views and understanding themselves better because they have the opportunity to express themselves. The most important take-away for your child will be feeling heard, seen and valued.
Parents often tell me they don’t know where to begin to have a “real” conversation with their child. These questions will get you started. Rather than badgering your child with them, use one as the jumping off point for a two-way conversation. Start by asking your child the question, and listen to the answer, remembering to reflect back what she’s saying so she knows you understand.
These Conversation Starter Questions can be adapted for kids of all ages, and work well both to launch family dinner table conversations and for one-on-one time.
Getting to Know Your Child
What are the three most interesting things about you?
Name five reasons you’re glad to be alive.
If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?
If you had a time machine for a day, what would you do with it?
What’s your favorite song? Why?
What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?
What’s your favorite movie? Why?
Why do you think kids put rings in their eyebrows and noses and bellybuttons?
How about tattoos?
Do you think you would ever want to do that? Why or why not?
If we could go anywhere you wanted on vacation, where would you choose? Why?
If you could have a conversation with anyone in history, who would it be?
What would you want to ask them?
If your best friend could be anyone from a book you have read, who would it be?
What is your earliest memory?
What are you most proud of?
If you could change one thing about your appearance, what would it be?
If you had to choose only three words to describe yourself, what would you say?
Is there anything about you that inspires other people in any way?
What is your idea of an ideal day?
If you could instantly become an expert in something, what would it be?
Would you rather live in a castle, on a boat, or on a cloud?
In a zombie apocalypse, who would you want on your team and why?
If you were invisible where would you go and what would you do?
If you could go back in time and give your younger self advice, what would you tell yourself?
If you could go forward in time and give your older self advice, what would you tell yourself?
What is a quality you wish you could have more of?
If you could ask anyone for help, who would it be and why?
What scares you the most and why?
What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?
What one thing that you did in the past would you like to change if you could have a do-over?
What makes you feel better when you're upset?
What do you worry about the most?
What things are you not great at yet that you want some day to be good at? How much do you think you would have to practice to get good at those things?
What is your biggest goal this year?
When do you feel the most proud of who you are?
Your Relationship with Your Child
What is your favorite thing about our relationship?
What is your least favorite thing about our relationship?
Do you feel like you could talk with me about anything at all?
What would you be most likely to want to lie to me about? Why?
If you got into really big trouble, how do you think I would respond?
Is there something I can do better as your parent that I am not doing now?
If we had a special day together what would you want to do?
Do I ever embarrass you?
What are the most important things I have taught you?
If you had to choose only three words to describe me as a parent, what would you say?
If you and I could switch places for a day, what are the first things you would do?
What three words do you think best describe our family?
What is your favorite family tradition?
How do you think your friends' families compare to ours? Are they about as close? Closer? More distant? Why do you think that?
Do you think your friends talk to their parents?
What do you think makes a family close?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how strict are the parents in our family? What is the ideal number?
Can you list the most important rules in our family? What are they?
What do I and your other parent do when you do something against our rules?
Is the discipline in our family fair?
What’s the best thing about our family?
If you could change one thing about each of your parents, what would it be?
What are the most important things your parents have taught you?
What do you think are the most important qualities of a good parent?
What do you think makes a happy family?
Tell each person in the family why you’re glad they’re part of the family.
How do you think our family is the same or different from other families?
Do you want to have kids when you grow up? Why or why not?
What kind of parent will you be?
What are the good things about having siblings? What are the bad things?
What is the most important thing to do to have a good relationship with a sibling?
Do you have better or worse relationships with your sibling(s) than your friends?
What do you like best about each of your siblings?
Do you think you will be close to your siblings when you grow up?
How many of your ancestors can you name and what do you know about them?
Would you rather time-travel into the past to meet your ancestors or into the future to meet your descendants?
When your descendants look back, what do you want them to say about you?
How are you like each of your parents? How are you different?
What did you do today to help our family or make our family life better?
Blended Families and Adoptive Families
Do blended families take more work? Can they be as happy as birth families?
Do you ever miss your dad?
Do you think things would be different if your dad was still with us and I had never met your step-dad? How?
Even though your step-dad is not your biological dad, you know he adores you. Do you feel close to him?
You know, to your little sister you are completely her sister, not her stepsister. Do you feel that way, or is it different for you? Do you feel close to her?
When you grow up, do you think you and your step-sibs will stay connected?
Do you think it’s harder for children who have been adopted than for children who weren't?
Do you think it’s a good idea for kids who were adopted to look up their birth parents? Why or why not?
If you met your birth parents, how do you think they'd be different from us? In what way?
If you met your birth parents, what would you want to ask them?
If you met your birth parents, how would your life be different?
Values & Character
What traits do you most admire in other people?
Did you help anyone today?
Did you have a chance to be kind to anyone today?
Is it hard to make the choice to be kind sometimes?
Was anyone kind to you today?
Is it ever okay to treat people worse because they look different than you do?
Do you think it's okay to lie about your age to get into an Amusement Park with a cheaper ticket? Is it ever ok to lie?
Do you think your parents ever lie?
What kinds of lies do your friends tell their parents?
Does it matter if a person makes a moral or immoral choice, if no one ever knows?
Is it ever ok to cheat, in academics, sports, business?
If someone you loved was very sick but could not afford the medicine to get better, would it be okay to steal the medicine?
Do you think it is ever okay to share a secret that you were told in confidence? When and why?
What do you think the word "respect" means? Do certain people in positions of authority, like parents and teachers, automatically deserve respect? How does someone earn respect? How do people learn respect?
Everybody makes poor choices sometimes. Do you remember a time when you made a choice you later regretted? Did some part of you know that was a bad idea? What kept you from listening to that part of you? How could you support yourself to make a different choice if something similar happened again?
Do you swear? How many of the kids at school swear? What do you think about swearing?
What do you think the biggest problem in the world is?
What do you think the biggest problem in our country is?
What could our family do that would make the world a better place?
How important is money? Do you think there is enough money in the world for everyone to have enough?
Is being a millionaire a worthwhile goal?
What does it mean to be a good citizen?
Is it important to vote?
What do you think about taxes? Is it a good idea that everyone chips in to pay for schools and libraries and parks and roads?
Are there any lessons that we can learn from history that you think are super-important?
How would you change the world if you could?
What do you think the "take-away" message of this movie/book is?
Do you admire the hero in this movie/book? Why or why not?
Would you make the same choices the person in this book/movie is?
School & Learning
How did you grow your mind today?
Do you think you can learn anything, with enough practice?
Who is or was your favorite teacher? Why?
What do you like best about school?
What is the hardest thing about school?
How do you manage your homework so you can stay on top of it and feel good about it?
Do you think there is a difference between being smart and being wise?
What is your favorite time of the school day?
What is the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you at school?
What do you know how to do, that you could teach someone else?
How common do you think cheating is at your school?
What would you do if all the other kids were planning to cheat on the final and you knew that doing so would lower your grade?
Do you respect your teachers? Why or why not? Do you think they respect you?
Would you ever want to be a teacher? Why or why not?
What do you think makes the most difference in how kids do at school? Hard work, innate ability, parental supervision, peer attitudes, how good the school is?
Do you think it makes sense to admit students to a college based only on academic achievement or should an attempt be made to achieve racial and ethnic diversity as well?
Do you think kids from wealthier school districts have an unfair advantage?
What do you think about home-schooling?
How is remote-learning different than going to school in person, both the good things and the bad things?
Do you know what EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) is? If someone has a high EQ, what are they like?
What do you think the purpose is of the various emotions?
When you feel a strong emotion, what is the best way to respond to it?
How do you see me handle big emotions?
What is the best way to handle it when you feel super angry?
Do you think it is okay for people to cry when they get upset? (male and female, young and old?)
How do different emotions feel in your body?
Are you able to tell me or others when you are upset?
How do you feel when someone is angry with you? How do you act?
Are you a "cup is half full" or "cup is half empty" kind of person?
What do you do to cheer yourself up when you feel down?
What words do you wish someone would say to you when you’re having a tough time?
Have I never not noticed when you're sad?
What is the best way for me to help you when you feel grumpy?
When do you like me to hug you? When does it embarrass you?
What hurts your feelings? How do you act when your feelings are hurt?
When you're upset, do you like me to stay close or give you some space?
When you get really upset, how do you help yourself calm down?
When you are really angry at me, what is the most helpful way for me to respond?
When you make a mistake, are you able to repair things so that you end up feeling ok? What is the hardest part of repairing things?
How do you feel when you apologize, before, during and after?
What are the different kinds of courage? How do you define bravery?
Do you think of yourself as brave? When you're scared, what do you do?
What do you do when you feel so frustrated or hopeless that you want to give up?
Have you ever wished you were dead? When and why?
Have you ever thought of hurting yourself? What did you do?
When you wake up in a bad mood, what strategies do you use to help yourself feel better so you can have a good day?
Do you think you are addicted to your phone? Do you think we have appropriate rules around phones in our family?
Friendship & Peers
Who is your best friend and why?
What traits do you look for in friends?
Do you have friends who are different races or religions than you? Does that have any effect on the friendship?
Do you think you're good at making friends?
Who do you usually sit with at lunch at school? What do you talk about?
How do you work things out with a friend when you have a disagreement?
Where do you consider yourself on the shy to outgoing continuum?
Have you ever been mad at one of your friends? How did you handle it?
Do you think there is a such thing as peer pressure? Do you ever feel peer pressure?
Do you think some people are more susceptible to peer pressure than others? Why do you think that is?
What do you think makes a person popular?
Are wealthier kids more popular? Kids who mature faster?
Are you popular? Why or why not? Would you like to be?
What do you think leadership is? What makes a good leader?
What is your favorite social media? What do you like about it? Do you think it has any downsides?
Who gets teased at school or in your activities, and why?
Does the teasing ever go overboard?
How can we define what's ok and what's overboard?
Does the kid getting teased think the teasing is bullying, or not?
Who leads the teasing?
Do the kids who aren't leading the teasing feel they have to join in?
How do the kids who get teased react?
Do they stick up for themselves?
Does that help or make matters worse?
Does anyone else ever step in to stick up for the kids being teased? What is the most effective way to intervene?
What do you think the teasing does to the person being teased?
How do you think teasing affects the people doing the teasing?
If it is the choices we make that express who we are, what does teasing someone say about us?
Do you ever get teased or bullied?
If you did, what could you do or say?
Would you feel comfortable telling me about it if you were bullied?
Drug and Alcohol Use
Why do you think it's illegal for kids under the age of 21 to drink alcohol? After all, many parents do it.
Why are marijuana and other drugs illegal?
What would you do if you were in a car and the driver had been drinking or smoking marijuana?
What if the driver was a grown-up, like your friend's parent?
What do you think happens in the brain when people smoke marijuana? Why shouldn't kids smoke it?
Have you ever thought that I drank too much? Acted differently when I drank alcohol?
When do you think kids are ready to try alcohol?
Do you know any kids who have tried alcohol or drugs? What do you think of them?
Do you know any kids or adults who you think have alcohol or drug problems?
What do the kids at your school do at parties?
Have you been to a party like that? Have you ever been offered a drink? A marijuana cigarette or other drugs?
How did you handle it?
What would you do if you were at a party and someone passed out from drinking alcohol?
Are you worried that you might some day become addicted to alcohol or drugs? Why or why not?
Do you think coffee is a drug? When do you think it’s ok for kids to start drinking coffee?
Consent, Sex, Love, Marriage and Sexual Preference
At what age do you think people can fall in love?
At what age should people marry?
Do you think people should be married to have sex? If not, how should they decide whether they’re ready?
What do you think changes when you have sex?
How do you think love is different in real life than it is in the movies?
What would be most important thing to you in looking for a romantic partner? What about in looking for a spouse?
Why do you think people get divorced? How do you think it affects their kids?
Do you think any of the kids at school are not virgins? What do you think about that?
Do kids at your school actually “date”?
Do you think girls and guys have the same needs from sex and relationships?
What do you think about the idea of “friends with benefits”? Does the girl benefit as much as the guy?
If a guy is attracted to a girl, what do you think is the best way for him to show it?
If a girl is attracted to a guy, what do you think is the best way for her to show it?
If a boy wants to have sex and the girl is too drunk to say yes or no, what should the boy do?
What if a girl says yes to sex but then changes her mind when they start? What should the guy do?
Do you know anyone who’s gay? Does anyone treat them differently? What do you think about that?
Do you think some day you'll date girls or guys?
Body Image and Gender Roles
What matters most, attractiveness or being strong, smart, brave, responsible, caring, etc?
Who decides whether someone is pretty or attractive?
How do you think the bodies of models and actors on TV compare to ordinary peoples’ bodies? How does it make you feel to watch them?
What do you think of the way girls and guys in middle and high school dress these days?
Do you think girls look better with or without makeup?
Is attractiveness innate or is it something we can make ourselves into?
Does making ourselves attractive have a cost? (for instance, comfort, adventure, or fun.) Is that different for girls than for boys?
Is someone pretty who acts ugly?
Is someone pretty who is in rags but acts bravely and with caring?
Is there a difference between "attractive" and "hot"? Between "hot" and "sexy"?
How would you define “sexy”? Is it important to be “sexy”? Are some of the kids at school sexy?
How does someone know if they’re sexy?
Is it important that your future boyfriend or girlfriend be sexy?
What are the most important qualities you would want in a boyfriend or girlfriend?
Do you think most girls are glad when they reach puberty? Why or why not?
Do you think most guys are glad when they reach puberty? Why or why not?
What's the hardest thing about being a girl?
What's the hardest thing about being a boy?
Have you ever met someone who felt they had been born into the wrong body? For instance, a girl who thought she should have been born into a boy's body? What do you think about that?
What do you think about kids choosing to live as a different gender than they were born as?
Do you know anyone with an eating disorder? Why do you think kids develop eating disorders? Why do you think there’s such an emphasis on thin-ness in our society?
What did you do today to take care of your body?
Can you name three things that you really like about yourself that have nothing to do with what you look like?
Do you believe in God? Why or why not? If so, how do you picture God?
Do you ever talk to God?
Is spirituality the same as religion or different?
What do you think is the difference in the various religions you know about?
Has religion played a positive or negative role in history?
Do you have good friends who practice religions that are different from ours? Acquaintances? How are you like them? How are you the same or different?
Do you think there is one best religion? Why or why not?
What do you think happens after death?
What do you think is the meaning of life? Why are we alive?
How will you know if you’ve had a successful life?
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