NOTE: This post is now an APP that is available for purchase for 99 cents and will send you a different question everyday all year round that you can ask your teen.
You can find the App HERE.
On Wednesday I posted 25 ways to ask your kids “How was school today?” without asking them “How was school today?” and the questions came from a list that I made to ask my own children who are in elementary school.
But all of those questions are geared toward elementary school aged kids….and I started to think…if I think it’s hard for me to get school stories from my 10 year old boy now what is it going to be like 5 years from now?!?
And then I remembered that I know what its going to be like. I taught either junior high or high school for almost a decade and I get that communication with that age group is an art. BUT when you get dialogue, engaged dialogue with a teen it’s never disappointing, it’s guaranteed to be interesting, sometimes it can be very enlightening, and it’s ALWAYS worth the work. ALWAYS.
So tonight my husband (who also teaches high school) and I sat down and made a list of 25 ways to ask your teens “How Was School Today?” without asking them “How Was School Today?”…in an effort to get some sort of engaged, interesting dialog…even if it only lasts in that brief time in between them texting friends…
#1. Where in the school do you hang out the most? (Like a particular hall, classroom, parking lot, etc.) Where in the school do you never hang out?
#2. What would your school be better with? What would your school be better without?
#3. If you were a teacher what class would you teach? What class would be the worst to teach? Why?
#4. What was the coolest (saddest, funniest, scariest) thing that you saw today.
#5. Tell me one thing that you learned today.
#6. If your day at school today was a movie what movie would it be?
#7. Besides walking to their next classes, what else do people do in the halls in between classes?
#8. Who do you think you could be nicer to?
#9. What is your easiest class? What is your hardest class? OR What class are your learning the most in? What class are you learning the least in?
#10. If they played music in the halls at school what would everyone want them to play over the loudspeaker?
#11. If you could read minds what teachers mind would you read? What classmates mind would you read? Whose mind would you NOT want to read?
#12. If today had a theme song what would it be?
#13. Which class has your favorite group of students in it? Which class has the worst group of students?
#14. What do you think you should do more of at school? What do you think you should do less of?
#15. What are the top 3 (or 5) things that you hear people say in the halls?
#16. What do you think the most important part of school is?
#17. Tell me one question that you had today…even if it wasn’t answered….actually, especially if it wasn’t answered…
#18. What class has the most cute boys/girls in it?
#19. If an alien space ship landed at your school who would you like them to beam aboard and take back to their home planet?
#20. Who did you help today? Who helped you today?
#21. If you could be invisible for the day at school what would you do?
#22. What part of the day do you look forward to? What part of the day do you dread?
#23. What would you change about school lunch?
#24. What classmate is most likely to be arrested, made president, become a millionaire, be in movies, let loose a flock of wild chickens in the library, etc.
#25. If you had to go to only one class every day which class would it be?
#26. Tell me one thing you read at school today.
#27. If your day at school was an emoticon which one would it be?
#28. What do you think your teachers talked about in the faculty room today after school?
Ok, so I know there were a few more than 25…but with teenagers…we all need all the help we can get! 🙂
Good luck with those teens and happy conversing! (And for a printable version of this list you can click here: 28 Ways To Ask Your Teen So How Was Your Day Printable
I don’t have teenagers of my own but I’ve worked with my fair share of them….and one thing that I’ve found is that when you want them to open up just sitting them down and asking questions isn’t really effective. BUT, if you….say….trap them in the car…and talk to them while you are driving…and they don’t have to make eye contact… they are more willing to offer up more information or ask more questions.
This also happens while you are working with them on things like making dinner, folding laundry, rearranging furniture, etc. You can casually talk and ask questions without making them feel like you are grilling them.
When I taught school sometimes I would make up work project jobs to do with students that I was worried about just so that we could have some heart to hearts while scrubbing desks or cleaning out closets. It sounds lame, but I’m telling you, it works.
These are so great! Thank you and your husband for taking the time to share them.
Joan Lombari says
these are awesome! as a retired teacher assistant for 24 yrs. I find these suggestion incredible – soooo helpful. some of these never crossed my mind. it would be wonderful if teacher’s sent them home to parents at the start of the school year. thank u for sharing.
Sandy Cowie says
I found years ago that starting each of my kid’s day with a compliment without going overboard was a great way to start the day for our whole family. I passed this tip along to my sister who teaches school and she began using it on her problem children in little private settings and she said it really turned some of her kids around. A little bit of self esteem booster shot in the right area can be wonderful.
Great thoughts! Thanks you. Now I need to make the list for my husband, it’s so hard to get him to share any details of his day.
I LOVED this!! Thank you for the incredible GREAT ideas!! I don’t have teenagers but I think this is such a great platform to start a conversation with those, at times, intimidating youth.
I don’t think the “trap them in the car to talk” method works as well for most people anymore, unless they convince their teenagers to put down their cell phones. My teens were content to text their friends while I drove them around, as opposed to talking with me. What *did* help was when they were doing their practice-driving behind the wheel and I was in the passenger seat. Then, without any electronic device competing for attention, we were able to have conversations. Of course then I had to be sure not to distract them to the point of running off the road! 🙂
I agree, Joan. I wonder if the author will let us print them and give them out at next year’s open house . . .
I agree with John. I just ask for more detail! They are great questions though for parents who don’t have that connection with their kids and want more in depth conversations. We as parents decide when they use their phones (to react to the other comment as well) as we are the parents and can say “put your phone down for a minute, we are talking”
I loved this. I’d love to see you do one for spouses. That way if you are the spouse that works you don’t come home and ask the dreaded “so what did you do ALL day?” Or if you’re the spouse that stays home you can say something more than “how was work?” But for now I’ll use your other lists to help prompt me to come up with my own ideas for that.
I so agree. My son just graduated from high school. Our best conversations where in the car when it was just the two of us.
I’m going to miss those small opportunities when he leaves for college in a few weeks.
Bless you from Portland, OR
Ok. So for all of the parents reading this, I currently AM a 15 year old and in all honesty, most of these questions sound pretty good and not “stupid”. I mean, some of them are a bit cheesy, not going to lie, such as #27, #19, #12 and #6, but other than those few, these are all extremely simple yet thought-provoking questions that I’m sure will get your kids talking. I hope my point of view has helped.
Rita Di Bartolo says
We have foster children who can be even more closed mouth so I am going to put these to use. Our children our teenagers and and is hard to get more than fine or grunt going to pass on to fellow foster parents I know with similar issues Thank for get tips
Kids not there yet, but very soon they will be!! This list will be useful.
these are great – thank you!
Teresa Thompson says
I want to commend you on talking with or attempting to talk with your children. I have 24 & 21 yr old sons. I have talk with they their whole life. We have a good relationship and I believe that is why. It sounds like you are doing a great job of trying to connect with them. When they become teens it will be much easier for y’all to continue the dialogue.
These are great. They would make great writing prompts for teachers to learn more about their students!
These are a lot of fun! I’m lucky my teen is pretty cool about talking, but he was with me while I read these and his answer to the alien one? “oh, ME. That would be cool!” and the invisible one? “Go home”. Hehe. Too funny! Thanks for sharing your brainstorm. Not everyone knows how to break through to a teen and you never know when that aha moment might be. Even the best of parents can use a fresh spin on conversation starters! Plus I just got to enjoy a good chuckle with my son as a benefit of your ides, so Thanks for that 🙂
thanks liz for these great tips! have been quizzing myself how to know what happened to my kids’ day in school.
Deborah Devine says
Very thought provoking. We have 2nd Graders and Kindergarteners at our house and it’ still hard to get much information from them. I did ask our youngest what she did at school today that she liked the most… and she said “Jesus time.” She attends a Lutheran private school, and even shared the drawing she made during Jesus time… I’d love to share your list on my teaching blog, splitmultigradeclassroom.blogspot with your permission.
Smiles, Deborah Devine
Cindy Higgins says
Hi, like a lot of people my kids r grown now and this will def work for my Grandkids but I would like 25 questions for My son who is single and hates his job, he loves working on cars and loves car races I would like to communicate to him so he will want to have conversations wth me it seems it’s so like service converse but not really gettin to know him more, do u have some questions for Adults???
Thank you so much for your insight….
Mary Ann. Jensen says
The car thing works best especially if you have more than one kid in the car. Even though my “kids” are no longer teens, I was able to get more information from them that way. Also since they spent time at each others home it a good idea to share information with the other parent once in a while, be careful not to spread confidencial information.
Finally! I sooo need this – daughter’s 12 going 13 soon – thank you so much. God bless.
I have frequented your lovely blog for a little over a year and really love it! Since, i read this post here I have seen it several more places. Congrats on the viral.. even my kids school posted this on their facebook page.
This is a great list for parents, but I may take your list and make some of these into my daily journal prompts, for my English class, too! Thanks 🙂
My girls are now 21+ & 18+ and your suggestions are wonderful! My friends always wondered how I had so much information. My girls would often break mid thought and say, ‘you know, I tell you more than any of my friends tell their parents!’ I would remain quiet after that and let the thoughts continue to roll out. The same would work with their friends and many of them would bring up topics they were too uncomfortable to raise with their own parents.
One funny communication memory: my older girl at abour 15 telling my younger girl, ‘Watch Mommy in the car, she always starts talking about serious stuff and gets me talking, too!” LOL!
Now that they are both in college and travel often, I am so happy to get the calls or texts about their days. I love that they call my husband and I randomly to say Hi and tell us something of their day. These are gifts!
Again, great suggestions!
This is great! Next you should do a list on 25 ways to ask your husband how his day at work was!
All these questions are handy for “friends” of parents with kids. It seems so sad when the adults are visiting and the kid just sits there but if you don’t know them well, what are you to do? Pick a question. The kids might even like to return.
I used to think taking a kid out for a snack or meal would work. It turned out, tho, that they were more willing to open up when we were walking. Maybe because of the eye contact thing.
Dr Barbara Lavi says
I found your post through a group I belong to on LinkedIn & loved your questions. I took the liberty of copying them with a link to your blog (and a colorful rendition of the image for your post with your blog’s name included). You can view it here http://wakeupanddreamcatalyst.blogspot.com/2014/09/thursdays-psychology-tips-25-ways-to.html
I hope you get a lot of traffic from my post which I announce on multiple social media sites. I mention that you have a similar list of questions for elementary aged kids in the introduction to the post. Thanks for taking the time to write so many great conversation starters. DrB
My son and I have a date night 1 or 2 times a week and we go to dinner.That is when we really get talking cause we are both relaxed and happy. Certain discussions created during these nights get us talking everyday.
Thankyou so much Liz ! I love that you have created both these lists:) we play around with different questions with the kids but this is such fresh material it will really help us as a family, can’t wait to try them out! This is my first visit to your blog and won’t be the last ! Love Bernie x
Angel C. Pendergrass says
This is awesome! We have 3 children (22, 18, 13). I promise you these are super helpful for all 3. You guys deserve a Nobel Peace Prize! Anytime you can get teens to communicate and say “You guys are pretty cool to talk to” you have done it My kids love talking now!
Angel C. Pendergrass says
Sonia Fernandez says
True for teens, but a good ones to 1st-6th graders.
I have three teenagers (14-boy, 16-girl, 18-boy) and they tell me so much about what is going on in their lives! I attribute this to having stopped to listen when they started talking ever since they were young.
As a grandmother, I appreciate these helpful hints on how to ask my grandchildren how their day at school was. Very creative and clever. Sets my creative juices to flowing to come up with some of my own. Thanks, I can’t wait to try them tomorrow.
I was thinking the same thing! My husband’s answer to how was your day is always “Fine”.
I’m a mom to a 12 year old daughter in 7th grade this year, and fortunately we still have a great open line of communication. We also have a long commute, so she is cornered in the car 🙂 For years now, I’ve been asking her to tell me one thing she learned each day (#5 on your list) but I love the other questions, too. This is a fantastic list!
This will sound totally outrageous, but it’s what I do and it sometimes works. When my 7th grader walks in, I tell her to tell me something about the day. Surprise, surprise, she can’t think of anything. Then, I always joke that I’m going to sit on her until she tells me at least 3 interesting things about her day. The pressure is on, and I then get to (gently) tackle her and sit on her lap while she usually eventually comes up with a couple things that usually lead to some things I never would have otherwise known about. Rest assured, this involves plenty of laughing and eye rolling (and the chance for her to tell everyone that I sit on her until she talks — I’ll take it!).
p.s. I know I can’t use this tactic for much longer.
I have one in elementary and in middle school Both sets of questions are great. My children ask for the questions at dinner time. Thanks so much for thinking outside the box. I too would like to know if the writer wouldn’t mind if they were handed out at schools. I also would love to start seeing the children critique their teachers periodically. Their honesty, submitted privately, I’m sure would shock and awe their teachers because those conversations at our table are quite interesting. So if you’re feeling inspired, by all means, come up with another set for the students 🙂
Love this! We have three boys in high school (grade 7, 9 and 11) and getting them to open up about their day is almost impossible. This will come in handy.
I trap my son in the car on the way to or from the library on Saturdays and try to get a response about his week. Thanks for the new ways to ask!
Love the list (and your list for a younger one, too). I might add, having a teen son and pre-teen daughter that any conversation after food has been best. I’ve asked for years, “What was interesting today” and gotten good responses while in the car and after eating. Agree on the physical activity angle – works especially with our teen son.
I don’t typically comment on blog posts, but this was excellent. I’ve been using these for weeks and they absolutely work. Well done.
The car ride has always been the best with my children. (24, 16, 13). Eye contact for sure. You never look at them (hopefully you are concentrating on driving) and they don’t feel they will be judged by their answers. Being open to answers you never expected about their peers and teachers goes a long way… Thanks for the reinforcement.
Bianca Hersey says
A really nice post. Thank you for this. I think you would appreciate a wonderful book from Karyn Rashoff called Parents in Highschooland.
The author writes from over 30 years experience as a high school guidance counselor and it covers a huge range of vital information and advice to guide parents and students through the experience successfully. I thought the book was really intelligently planned out over its 7 sections and I’m sure it could be a great source of reference for a lot of families. http://highschooland.com/
Looking for ways to open up communication lines and found this site. Thanks for the share. These are great conversation starters tips for my middle schooler.
My kids are not teens yet, but I’ll keep the list for the years to come!
I would add this: of parents don’t share their day when they come home, it’s very unlikely that the kids do.
If the kids haven’t seen their parents doing that, it’s unlikely they will be confortable to do it.
So better begin with ourselves, confessing at dinner, each evening. After a while they will do the same.
Teaching by example 🙂
Fun conversation made me laugh made me wonder. And some made me sad.what do you think the teachers talked about in the faculty room…. the answer was “kids… the kids they don’t like”
as a 17 year old girl (and probably one of the more “intimidating” ones: short purple hair, a few tattoos, multiple piercings), just remember that teens don’t hate you for being a parent! we’re probably happy to talk to you. i always feel the most comfortable around adults who just talk to me like another adult. it makes us nervous when we feel like parents are fishing for specific information (do they think i did something wrong? am i in trouble?), but i’m happy to talk about my day if i’m not afraid of accidentally incriminating myself!
Shawn Bird says
I agree. Compliments do amazing things. If I had a real troublesome kid, I would watch for something to praise, and then phone home to share the positive. Kids would come to school transformed, and parents LOVE hearing something good about their kids. When I’d say who I was, they’d sigh, ready for the worst, and when I hung up, they’d be gushing with thanks and delight. (Then the next day, I’d hear whispers in the class room as the kids talked about it). lol It’s wonderful what positive attention can do.
Desiree @ The36thAvenue says
What a great post!
Sharing on FB and pinning for later!
Joselyn @ MeaningfulRemnants says
For someone that doesn’t have teenagers, you couldn’t be more on point! Every night at dinner, we go around the table and share our day experiences and my teenager provides one word answers to our questions. Definitely giving these a try. Thanks to you and hubby for putting together this fabulous list of questions!