Conversation Starters for You and Your Teenager

Getting a conversation going with a teen can feel like trying to move a building with a crowbar. If you’re having a hard time engaging your teen in conversation, some of what follows may help.

Begin by committing to one hour a week of a unique type of conversation (i.e., one 60-minute period, three 20-minute periods, etc.). In this conversation all you would do is pay attention and express positive thoughts and feelings, including empathy. Try to avoid teaching, correcting, moralizing, etc., during this hour. (Think of this as good practice for when you’re an in-law.) You can sit on your teen’s bed at night, get to a movie before the commercials, use car trips, etc. You could print out the following list and ask your teen to pick some to react to.

Answer both the question, and “how come” you gave that answer:

• The best thing that happened to me so far this year is…

• The worst thing that happened to me so far this year is…

• The thing I like to do the most is…

• The thing I like to do the least is…

• The best thing about you as a father/son/mother/daughter is…

• In 10 years I hope…

• If I had three wishes I’d wish for (avoid wishing for more wishes or cash and it has to be about your own life so “world peace” won’t work)…

• One of my favorite movies of all time is…

• My favorite recording artist is…

• If I could have any job in the world it would be…

• My favorite word is…

• My least favorite word is…

• My favorite TV show is…

• The thing I like best about our family is…

• It would please me if you were interested in…

• The three people who have most influenced my values and thinking are…

• A one-month all expense paid trip I’d like to take anywhere in the world is..

• Three people from history I’d most like to have as guests in our home are…

• An important change I want to see in myself is…

• If I could have any superpower it would be…

• My favorite video game is…

• I think the key to happiness is…

• When I’m on my death bed I hope I can look back and…

• My favorite thing about us as a family is…

• My favorite internet site is…

• Our families top opportunity for growth is…

Three closing thoughts: first, even your teen’s dialogue may seem simplistic (i.e., you want to discuss all the colors of the rainbow but she all she can do is black ‘n white), the value of the exercise is still there as long as you’re attending and valuing. Second, consistent application of this exercise can yield tremendous benefits not only for your relationship with your teen, but also for your teen’s wellness.  Finally, if you find that you cannot reach your teen perhaps your local friendly mental health professional can help. One place to locate someone is http://locator.apa.org/.

Good luck!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: