Have you ever had one of those breakthrough moments in parenting where a conversation suddenly goes way deeper than you expected and your teenager actually opens up? Those are the best. But figuring out how to get your teenager talking and sharing like this is tricky! So here are some things to try:

  1. Ask unexpected questions. There are only so many times you and your teenager can tolerate the question, “So . . . how was your day?” So try a new icebreaker once in a while. Ask them what made them laugh today, or what they’re watching lately, or who their favorite friend is at the moment. Here’s a secret: you can find a lot of funny, unexpected icebreaker questions with a quick Google search.
  2. Listen longest. When your teenager is speaking, listen. Then keep listening. As they share, keep engaging with eye contact and follow-up questions so they know you care. And remember, not every conversation needs to be long to be effective. Just try to listen more than you talk.
  3. Go first. If you have a tough or personal question for your teenager, remember they’re more likely to share their stories, opinions, feelings, or questions if you share yours first. Giving them a relatable example from your life can help spark a stalled conversation.
  4. Hear their feelings. When your teenager shares something with you, remember there are real feelings behind even seemingly straightforward experiences. Don’t dismiss, ignore, or overlook those feelings.
  5. Invite silence. This may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best way to encourage conversation is to sit in silence for a moment. Give your teenager time to think and rehearse their answers before expecting them to speak.

And remember, you’ll never be able to manufacture “breakthrough” moments on demand, but these five tips will help you make those moments a little more likely.