Is it just me, or do you sometimes struggle getting teenagers to open up and just talk?
I have this issue with my own teenagers. Conversations can drift toward the mundane.
“How was school?”
“Same as always.”
“Anything interesting happen today?”
“Nice talking with you!”
Youth workers probably have the same frustrations talking with teenagers that they first meet.
“What’s your name?”
“What school do you go to?”
“Play any sports?”
“Have you ever accidently killed a squirrel?”
Let’s face it. Teenagers have a PhD in one-word answers… if we don’t ask the right questions.
Here’s 5 tips I found that helped me get teenagers talking:
1. Don’t ask yes or no questions.
If you do, then you know you’re gonna get a one word answer.
If you ask a teenager, “Was school fun today?” Chances are, you’re gonna hear the word “No.” Conversation over.
2. Don’t ask dull questions.
Sure, if you’re just meeting a teenager you might need to ask their name and school, but don’t go the expected route and ask the typical, “Do you like it there?” (a yes or no question) Ask something that is a little unexpected.
“If you had to choose just one class, or one teacher, and you could ditch the rest, which would you choose?”
A question like this gives you insight into what subjects they like, what kind of adults they respect, plus it provides them with a fun element—picturing a world where they choose classes and ditch others!
But unexpected questions don’t always come easy… that’s why you always need to…
3. Think ahead.
If you struggle getting teenagers talking, don’t try to think of something on the fly. Plan ahead.
Parents, don’t wait until you’re sitting at the dinner table to try to think of something to say. Youth workers, don’t walk up to a teenager and say the first thing on your mind. Think ahead. Use some resources if you have to. Which brings me to my next tip…