This post: Get a Better Glimpse into What Your Teen is Really Thinking by Asking Them These Questions
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about teenagers, it’s that they have a lot to say. That might come as a surprise to some parents (maybe even a shock).
But, hear me out…
We all know it’s true. When our kids become teenagers, they don’t share their world with us nearly as much as they used to (most teens, anyway). They spend the vast amount of their free time behind their closed bedroom door, they don’t dive into family time with as much enthusiasm as they once did and their friends take center stage in their lives.
And, even though nearly every parenting expert has confirmed that our teen’s “offish,” non-communicative behavior is completely normal (in fact, necessary as they ready their wings to fly), what they don’t talk about is how difficult this transition is for parents.
I know for me, I missed being part of my kids’ everyday lives. I missed how they used to jump into family dinner conversations and movie nights with tons of enthusiasm. I missed the hugs they once passed out freely. I missed how they used to willingly share their day without acting as though they were part of the CIA and they’d have to kill me if they offered up too much information.
However, just because our kids’ world doesn’t involve us quite as much as it once did doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk to us. It doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to say. And, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to share their world. They simply need a little prodding and a listening ear…
What I’ve learned in the trenches of parenting teenagers is that behind the quiet composure, the closed bedroom door and the indifference lies a teenager who actually has a lot to say… given the opportunity.
What I’ve also learned is that connecting with our kids and getting them to open up is all about knowing what questions to ask.
I’ve tossed out dozens of questions to my kids through the years. Some of those questions helped strengthen our relationship while others helped soften blows when tension was high, break down barriers when we hit a wall, and build bridges when our relationship veered off path.
The answers I’ve received from my kids have been honest, raw and sometimes, painful. But they’ve helped me recognize things I was doing or saying (or perhaps not doing or saying) without even realizing. More importantly, their answers have helped me to better understand my kids, have a clearer picture of where their head is at and ultimately become a better parent while creating a deeper, more meaningful bond with my kids.
If you want to find out what your teen is really thinking, try asking them a few of these powerful questions.
6 Powerful Questions to Ask to Find Out What Your Teen is Really Thinking
#1 We seem to argue a lot about (insert what you argue most about). I’m tired of nagging and arguing, and I know you’re tired of hearing it, how can we work together on this as opposed to against each other?
Arguing, nagging, yelling… it holds the power to create a serious division between our kids and us. The more we do it, the less they listen. The less they listen, the more we do it. It’s a vicious cycle we have to make a conscious effort to stop.
Instead, we need to view our relationship with our teen as a partnership, not a dictatorship. Ask them how the two of you can work together, meet in the middle and resolve the issue together. Once you’re on the same team, you’ll open the lines of communication and set the tone for more open dialogue – and far less arguing and nagging.
#2 What is the one thing that’s weighing most heavily on your mind right now and what can I do to help you ease that pressure?
Just because our teens are young, doesn’t mean they don’t have problems. School, their future, friend drama, girlfriend/boyfriend issues, wavering self-confidence – whether you realize it or not, your teen’s mind is racing. And, many of the issues, problems or fears they face are too big for them to handle on their own.
Let them open up (without interruption) about what’s keeping them up at night, what’s making it hard to focus, or what’s making them cranky and possibly hard to deal with. Even if you don’t have all the answers (they may simply want a sounding board, anyway), knowing that you’re there, that you’re listening and that you care, can help them lift the weight of their world off their shoulders and help you build a stronger connection with your teen.
#3 What do you consider a priority in your life right now?
Let’s face it, what we think should be important in our kids’ lives – school, getting their homework done on time, thinking about college or their future, etc., doesn’t always align with what’s actually important to them. While we might be busy focusing on encouraging them to get their ACT or SAT score up so they can apply to decent colleges, they might be focused on their next football or soccer game, or getting back together with their boyfriend or girlfriend after having gotten into a big fight.
With my kids, I’ve always tried to understand where their head is at. And, oftentimes I’ve found that our priorities don’t align. What this question does is open the lines of communication, allow you both to (calmly and respectfully) express your thoughts and strive toward a middle ground where both your and your teen’s priorities can be addressed and you can move together toward common goals.
#4 I know you need your space right now and I respect that, but I miss spending time with you. How can we spend more time together?
When my kids first became teenagers and started pulling away, I found myself getting defensive. Rather than giving them the much-needed space they needed, I took it personally. I got angry when they spent too much time in their bedroom, I put the hammer down and demanded they spend more time with the family and I argued with them about how the family always seemed to come second to their friends.
Trust me on this one, my attitude only made matters worse. The minute I let my guard down, showed my vulnerability and honestly expressed my feelings, the tide dramatically changed in our relationship. Our kids are nearing adulthood, talk to them like you’d talk to any other adult in your life.
#5 If you could feel more confident about one thing in your life, what would it be?
This is a (rather sneaky) question I’ve asked my kids in the past to find out what makes them feel insecure. All teenagers have insecurities – it’s a given. Some are insecure about their looks or grades, while others are insecure about their future or fitting in with friends.
First and foremost, this question offers you insight. Secondly, it gives you an opportunity to help your teen alleviate their insecurity and build confidence. If your son is insecure about his grades, perhaps you can lend him a hand with his homework or hire a tutor to help bring him up to speed. If your daughter is insecure about her weight or her battle with acne, you can help guide her toward a healthier lifestyle or seek help from a dermatologist to find a solution. Above all, this question allows you the ability to partner with your teen to help boost their confidence and view themselves in a more positive light.
#6 If there is one thing you could tell me (particularly about the way I parent) without the fear of me overreacting or getting upset, what would you want me to know?
Heads up, parents. Our teens knocked us off our pedestal of parental perfection a long time ago. The older they become, the less they view us as authoritative, “can do no wrong” parents, and the more they view us simply as people. Find out what your teen is really thinking. Ask them to weigh in on how you’re doing as a parent. Seek their input. Listen to what they have to say and (within reason, of course) take heart in the constructive criticism they’re willing to share.
With my own kids, I learned that I was too opinionated about well… everything. What they needed from me was to back off a bit, to stop being the “fixer” and let them figure out a few things on their own, which I did (although it was hard). Our kids are far wiser than we even realize and, so often, they know what they need.
There are so many questions I’ve asked my kids through the years. Each one targeted various areas of their lives or our relationship – areas in which we were struggling to connect or see eye to eye, areas that I felt we needed to improve upon to strengthen our relationship or areas in their lives where I noticed they were struggling.
To get on the same page and work together toward common goals, find out what your teen is really thinking. Take a hard look at your relationship with your teen. Make a list of improvements you feel need to be made and turn them into questions to ask your teen. Use the questions as launchpads for meaningful (respectful) conversations. Use them to make positive changes in your relationship, to willingly show your compassion, understanding and love, and as a foundation to strengthen your relationship with your teen.