At first, this can seem like a great break for us tired parents who juggle many different responsibilities. We have realized, however, how important it is to still engage him in deeper conversation – more than we usually have during dinner, or in passing. We’re learning how to take advantage of the time we often took for granted in the past. Things like car rides and trips to the store now provide us opportunities. We’re like pirates searching for “hidden treasure.”
I typically ask both our boys questions. What made your day great? Have you been kind to someone lately? They’re great starter questions, and they sometimes provide amusing answers. But we still long for deeper conversations. We want way more than “yes” or “no” answers.
Working with high school students with Youth for Christ, we consistently work on asking open-ended questions, and the ability to do so has proven valuable in my home life. Open-ended questions are questions that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” These open-ended questions may seem simple, but it’s easy to run out of things to ask. I’d suggest having a few of them in mind, so you’ll be ready when opportunities arise. And be ready with follow-up questions to keep the conversation going, like, “Why do you feel that way?”
I’ve included some conversation starters and open-ended questions. Let the conversation flow organically, but most importantly, I encourage you to dig deep past those “yes” or “no” responses.
If you could make up a brand-new school subject, what would it be? Would you rather eat your least favorite vegetable, or have extra homework? When you’re sad, how do you make yourself feel better? What’s your favorite day of the week? Would you rather take a picture, or be in the picture? When you’re waiting for something, how do you pass the time? If you could do one thing, every day, for the rest of your life, what would it be? What is your favorite thing about yourself? How do you make friends? When you woke up this morning, what was the first thing you thought about?
When we ask our children deeper questions, it shows that we are interested in them as a person. It will make them feel valued, which can go a long way toward improving their self-esteem. And hopefully, as parents, you too will find some “hidden treasure” that your child is just waiting to share.