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 for 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 isn’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
- What is your favorite movie?
- What is your favorite day of the week?
- Did you smile or laugh extra today?
- If you could eat one thing every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
- What is your favorite book?
- What is your favorite song?
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
- What is your favorite family tradition?
- What is your favorite color?
- What is your favorite joke?
- What is your favorite time of year?
- If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
- If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Questions for older kids
- Tell me something about you that you think I might not know.
- What’s a memory that makes you happy?
- What do you look forward to when you wake up?
- What makes you feel loved?
- How do you show people you care?
- If you could give $100 to a charity, which would you choose?
- What makes your friends so awesome?
- If you could change anything about our family what would it be?
- If you could have any 3 wishes granted, what would they be?
- What is your biggest worry?
- If you could change your name, would you want to and what name would you choose instead?
- If you were a teacher and could teach your students anything at all, what would you teach them?
Questions to get to know them better
- If you could be any age, what age would you be?
- If you could be a famous person for a week, who would you be?
- What was the best part of your day?
- If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
- If you could go back and do something differently, what would it be?
- What is your favorite thing about yourself?
- When was the last time you made someone smile?
- What does it mean to be a good friend?
- Can you remember a time when you had a really good day?
- What do you feel grateful for today?
- What is something you are really good at?
- What are you most proud of?
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- Do you want to be famous?
- Do you think it’s more important to be rich or kind?
- If someone gave you $50 what would you do with it?
- What made you laugh today?
- What do you worry about the most?
- What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
- What is something you are really looking forward to?
- What is something you want to learn how to do?
- What’s the hardest part about going to school?
- What 3 items would you grab if your house was on fire?
- What is the best gift you have ever received?
- Did you smile or laugh extra today?
- If you could ask a wild animal any question, what would you ask?
- What makes someone smart?
Tips for a successful conversation
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.
Listen – 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 he/she is 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.