Conversation Starters: How to get your child to open up

When your child says their first word, it’s an exciting step into constant chatter, a lot (A LOT) of questions, and some pretty funny ‘kids say the darndest things’ moments. But what happens when your child stops talking, stops opening up and shies away from sharing their day with you?

As kids grow, they move through different stages of social development. Knowing which one they are in can help you navigate and initiate meaningful conversations with your child. Keeping your kids talking is important. Not in a hovering way, but to keep connected, to check in, and keep the lines of communication open.

Easier said than done, right? It can be a challenge to keep the dialogue going with your child when the day has been long for both of you. Here are some easy-to-remember conversation starters to help.


At this age, kids will still be willing to chat with you if you take initiative and make it fun. Ask questions that focus on playful ways for them to share their emotions, interests and abilities.

  • “What’s something really cool we could do/build/play later?”
  • “Who was your favorite person at school today?
  • “What did you do today that made you feel accomplished?”
  • “What is the best thing in your backpack right now?”

READ MORE: The 5 emotions you should talk about with your child


Ah, the middle school years. Your child wants to feel competent and show you that they are capable, so try to give them opportunities to share their thoughts and skills. They are also starting to form their identity, which can be tricky at best. You can learn a lot by listening to them talk to their friends and then try to pick up those same conversations later on.

  • “Can you show me how you did that…”
  • “In middle school I remember being…”
  • “How is so-and-so doing?”
  • “What’s the kindest thing you did for someone this week?”

READ MORE: Understanding how your child experiences social pressure


Your little one isn’t so little anymore. They are fast approaching adulthood. This means you can really start to get on their level and vice versa. Current event and pop culture topics seem cliché as conversation topics, but being open to your child’s perspective and feedback can make a huge impact as they are figuring out who they are and where they feel comfortable and safe. Avoid ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions and don’t be offended if they don’t want to talk. You can share parts of your day to give them space to be themselves but still show you’re there.

  • “What do you think about the latest updates on…”
  • “Let me tell you about my day…”
  • “Are there any movies or shows you’ve been wanting to watch?”

Remember, if you’re having trouble getting your child or teen to talk, try not to worry. If they aren’t talking to you, they might just be opening up to friends, a cousin, another parent etc. It’s time to be concerned if you see them stop communicating with everyone, if their eating or sleeping habits change, or if you see a big shift in their mood over time.

Every day, there are hundreds of opportunities to connect with your child. Time only allows us to take advantage of so many, but when you see your chance — start the conversation.

Looking for some inspiration? Our printable cards can help you get the conversation started! 


Jo Deaton is the senior director of nursing for Mental Health at Anne Arundel Medical Center. She can be reached at 410-573-5454.

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Originally published Sept. 25, 2018. Last updated Nov. 5, 2019.