Creative Ways to Get a Teen Talking

If you’ve had any experience living or working with a teen, you know they can be tricky to get talking.  Among their ever popular responses to our probing questions are “fine,” “whatever,” “good,” and of course, “I don’t know.”

Adolescence, which is a stage, not a permanent state of being, comes with its own set of developmental tasks, among which is the need to psychologically separate from one’s parents and develop one’s own sense of identity.  This makes it all the more difficult for parents to connect with teens who themselves are trying to get a sense of self on their own.

So is there any hope for connecting to teens? Here are some creative things you might try to get them talking:

  1. Be awake and around them between about 10pm and 1am.  During this time adolescents are the most awake and chatty.  Their biorhythms are peaking, keeping them awake and energized during these hours.  If you are around during this time in the same space with them, they will feel more relaxed and comfortable talking.  It’s an opportune time to ask subtly about their day.
  2. Have them invite their friends over.  While on their own, they may be more closed-lipped; but with their friends around and in a relaxed environment, they (or maybe their friend’s first) will be more likely to share about their world.
  3. Have a third thing to focus on.  The direct approach may scare off conversation with your teen, but having a conversation while doing something together (like raking leaves or riding bikes) that you can focus on, may take some of the talking pressure off, resulting in a more relaxed conversation.
  4. As surprising as it sounds, many teenage girls love to color!  A great technique is to ask her to color a circle divided into pie pieces, each piece representing an area of her life.  Then ask her to color each pie piece to represent how happy or satisfied she is in each area of her life.  The simplicity of the coloring while thinking about eight different areas of her life usually creates a relaxed activity with lots of sharing.  This is called the Life Balance Wheel exercise, which you can try online here at Life Balance Wheel or at
  5. To get a teenage guy talking, try asking about his best friends and what they are into.  Then you can ask him to tell you a story or two that his buddies would tell about him.  This tends to open up more conversation than asking him to talk about himself directly.
  6. Last, but certainly not least, get a bunch of teens in a room together and start a conversation.  Then sit back and listen to the conversation take off, asking questions lightly along the way, being careful to show interest without interrupting the conversation.

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