53 Open-Ended Questions for Kids of All Ages
There’s plenty going on in our day-to-day lives, and more often than not, it feels like our families are moving in 10 different directions at any given time. And while some things may slip through the cracks, keeping the lines of communication open is crucial. But as strange as it may sound, sometimes connecting with our kids is a lot easier said than done. If you’re looking for a new way to breathe some life back into your connections, try striking up a conversation to get things going. Ahead you’ll find 53 ‘get to know you’ questions to ask kids that are sure to get them talking.
Before we dive in, we caught up with child psychologist and founder of Parenting On Your Own Path, Dr. Emily W. King, to find out why keeping the lines open is so important and why it seems to be so difficult for some kids.
Q: Why is it so important to keep the lines of communication open?
A: “We always want our kids to feel like they can talk to us anytime they need advice or when they are upset. The key here is to continually foster a relationship where your child feels they can be their authentic selves. Ideally, you want to show them that you will not judge their choices but help them stay safe and learn. We need our children to trust us on small things so they’ll trust us on the big things. We also want our homes and our relationships with our children to be the safest place to explore their feelings and ideas about the world.”
Q: Why is it so difficult for some kids to talk and share?
A: “Adults are often hesitant to talk and share because we fear judgment from others. Sometimes, we may inadvertently model this hesitation in front of our kids when we talk about what others think of us or when we comment about not wanting to disappoint others at our own expense. Additionally, some children are just wired to feel anxious about what others think, which tends to align with perfectionism. For these children, we want to be certain to provide a non-judgmental zone for sharing their thoughts and feelings. Children may also have experienced a dynamic in school or an extracurricular where following the adult is the norm and speaking up is discouraged.”
Q: Should parents set aside a specific time for these heart-to-hearts?
A: “The time of day that parents and kids connect best is different for every family. Some kids love to talk before bed to resolve the conflicts of the day, while others like to have a routine chat during bath time when their body is relaxed. Some parents will even find that older kids prefer dinner time when the focus isn’t all on them.
One of the best ways to create a safe place for your kids to share their thoughts with you is to make it a routine and give it a name. Calling this interaction “talking time,” for example, can give your child a sense of time and place, something to look forward to. Keep in mind that the time and place aren’t as important as the stability of it being a daily ritual that reminds kids that you are there no matter what has occurred during the day.”
53 open-ended questions that will
get kids talking
Questions for younger kids
Questions for older kids
Questions to get to know them better
Tips for a successful conversation with your kids
Don’t force it
The best conversions with your kids will always be the ones that feel organic. If you want to talk to your kids, and the timing just doesn’t feel right (this comes up often with older kids) just let it go and try again.
Ask the right questions
When you’re talking to your kids, remember to ask open-ended questions that require them to elaborate. If you ask yes or no questions, you’ll likely end up with yes or no answers.
Be mindful of your reactions
The purpose of these questions is to get your kids talking. So, when they do, remember to be mindful of your reaction. Overreacting is a sure-fire way to get them to clam up and stop talking. Not to mention that your negative reactions will torpedo any plans you may have for heart-to-hearts in the future.
When you ask your child a question, be sure to stay tuned for the response. Put down the phone, be in the moment and focus on the conversation. If your child feels like they are not being heard they may think twice about continuing the conversation or opening up to you again.
Phrases to keep the conversations going
Bear in mind that even when you ask open-ended questions, you might hit a wall for one reason or another. So when it feels like the conversation is stalling, here are a few suggested phrases to keep it going.
- Seriously? Then what happened?
- How do you feel about what happened?
- So, now what are you planning to do?
- So, then how did you feel about that?
- And this is making you think….?
Talking with your kids doesn’t have to be hard; you just need to ask the right questions. Open-ended questions will give your kids the latitude to be creative, and unique or fun questions will certainly keep them engaged. Keep in mind that your purpose here is to strengthen your bond and give your child a safe space to explore their thoughts and emotions. So, when it’s time for a chat, remember to listen, be supportive, and perhaps most importantly, be in the moment.