Are you struggling to know what to talk about with your tween or teen? Perhaps you’re trying to get them to talk and open up to you? Here are 5 emotionally bonding questions to ask your teens–not only get them to open up to you, but build a stronger family bond.

family laughing

To most of us, it comes easy to feel emotionally close with our children. But do they feel emotionally close to us?

As they grow older, will they feel safe to share their hearts with us —the good, the bad, and the ugly?

Will we have done everything we could to nurture and protect the emotional bond as a family?

I talk often on Word From The Bird about the importance of this bond, and why the earlier you understand it the better.

So today, I specifically want to address the things we communicate to our kids that will positively affect them, and nurture their emotional and mental health. I genuinely believe that when the family unit is healthy, our society can be healthy.


woman smiling

“Check out the new Pinwheel Phone – The safest phone for tweens and teens that I highly endorse! Get 10% off through this link!”

— Hillary Gruener, owner and founder of Word From the Bird Blog

Why you need to ask your teen or tween questions every day

Sometimes, our attention as parents misses the emotional mark of our teen’s needs, to simply providing for them physically. But children need so much more than a hot meal and quick convo at dinner. They need intentionality, and for you to identify with them — empathize with them.

Along with modeling what a healthy person looks like, as parents, we are given the responsibility to help our children navigate their negative emotions.

And even though we may feel helpless, and think that the only way our kids will learn how to do that is with a therapist, we are not helpless, and can directly influence and equip them to thrive emotionally in our culture.

Not to say that your teen shouldn’t have a therapist or counselor.

There are situations that your child may need outside help.

In fact, it takes humility on a parent’s part to allow their children a mentor, or other healthy adults in their life, such as a counselor.

Teens sometimes will better seek advice from an adult who isn’t their parent. So as they get older, don’t discourage other healthy individuals to be a part of their life.

Parenting also includes accepting that you won’t always have the answers, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you do your best to research, understand, and apply everything you can to better identify with your kids, and give them the tools to work through their emotions.

Also, check out – Emotionally Healthy Children Have Parents Who Do These 7 Things

What a Boy Needs From His Mom

What a Boy Needs From His Dad

5 questions that will encourage emotional bonding with your teen or tween

boy on a lake

1. Ask your teen — How are you feeling emotionally today?

I know this sounds simple and obvious, but by asking this question, you may open up ample opportunities to develop an honest relationship with your child on a deeper level than, “Hey, how are you?”

By addressing the “feelings” and “emotions” with that question, you are communicating to them that they do have feelings and emotions, and it’s perfectly okay to feel them.

Tell them you notice that they seem a little down and if there is anything you can do to help.

Don’t assume something is wrong by saying, “What’s wrong?” But instead, allow them to share their heart. Tell them you are always there for them and create a non-judgmental space where they can share ANYTHING with you, without punishing them for it.

If they do open up with you, make sure you don’t listen to respond and fix, but rather listen to understand.

Don’t try to fix them

Sometimes I make the mistake of trying to fix a bad situation for my son right after he tells me what happened, thinking the reason he told me was because he wanted my advice.

But if you see that your child needs help or direction, ask them if it’s okay that you give your advice. Don’t just force your opinions down their throat.

Say, “Oh man, I’m so sorry you’re going through that. I am here for you. I love you. Would you like to know what I would do in this situation?”

And if they don’t want that, then leave it. Them knowing that you are there for them is sometimes enough to be able to navigate through that difficult circumstance.

If you’re looking for a way to connect with your kids on a deeper level, check out this incredible dinner talk card game – OUR MOMENTS. Conversation starters that will resonate with your kids for emotional bonding and a great neutral way for them to open up to you. With questions like “If you were a superhero, who would you be?” you will find yourself laughing and connecting as a family in a unique way.

questions to ask teens

2. Ask your teen — what would you like to do with me today?

Time spent together as a family is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. But make sure it’s intentional. That means you don’t check your phone, or do something YOU want to do.

Even if it’s 15 minutes of intentional time doing something THEY love, it will mean the world to them.

teenagers smiling

3. Ask your teen– what happened today that made you smile or laugh, or …

You fill in the blank. Asking your child these questions that will not end in a yes or no, will help them think about the answer, instead of quickly responding with a “NO.”

When I ask my son this after school, he sometimes has an answer, but not always. The point is that you care. You care to know about his day. You care to know if they were treated unkindly. You care to know that they felt safe.

Your children need to know you care, even about the most minute, mundane, and sometimes ridiculous events of their adolescent life.

Having an emotionally healthy relationship with your children requires patience and the understanding that you sometimes hold their hearts in your hands. Be ever so careful with it.

teenager

4. Ask our teen–what are you thankful or grateful for today?

Along with asking the questions that are good conversation starters, it’s vital that you help them see the good things that happen in their life.

In western civilization, kids are unfortunately unaware of what they have, and VERY aware of what they don’t have.

So how do we raise kids who are content, and grateful? Well, along with being grateful and content yourself as to model for them what that looks like, you can ask them for what they are thankful for on a daily basis.

This gets harder with kids the older they get. All the more reason to start these conversations when they are young.

Check out Dear son, you are more than your good grades – the danger in expecting perfection from your kid.

peer pressure

5. Ask your teen–is there anything you want to tell us that might be hard to say?

We don’t usually ask this every day, but instead when he looks like he’s a bit down or sad about something.

We have created a safe zone in our family. In our conversations, we want our kids to know that we don’t judge them, that we are always on their side, and we want the best for them.

Naturally, things will happen in your kid’s life that are surprising, unfortunate, or things you wished you could have changed for them. But the important thing is to create a space where they feel free to share those things.

Wouldn’t you rather your tween or teen feel safe to share the bad stuff instead of hiding it from you? To do that, you have to give them grace. If they share with you something sensitive that was hard for them to say, then reward that, don’t punish it.

By saying “that might be hard to say” you acknowledge that they might have a hard time saying it, and that’s okay.

They need to know you are safe to share their deepest and darkest, without judgment, without condemnation.

In summary

As parents, we want to be the safe place our kids go to share their hearts, difficulties, and emotions. To nurture their hearts means to identify with them, and give them the freedom to fail.

Just as we aren’t perfect individuals, they aren’t either.

Kids don’t need a hero to swoop in and save them from every difficult circumstance. They don’t need a judge and jury to sentence them because of the mistakes they’ve made.

They need a safe zone to be who they are, and a shepherd to guide them through the painful emotions or circumstances that might come their way.


Positive parenting tools for every parent 

Screen Time Protection, Safe Phone Options, and Teaching Moderation

I’ve recently partnered with Bark, a software to supervise, manage, and protect your child’s device use on the go. Use the code WORDBIRD at checkout to get an additional 1-month free trial after your first initial 7-day trial!

The safest smartphone out there! Check out Pinwheel and get 10% OFF your order using this link.

Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids – FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below. 

Book List for Kids and Parents

Check out my recommended books for parenting

Booklist to teach kids about racial diversity. 

Journaling for Kids

When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves in a free and comfortable way. Check out our Kid’s Printable Journals — created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark imagination. 

Chores for Kids

Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge

Implementing chores and structure in your child’s daily life is a VERY helpful tool to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their own progress, and keep you from having to constantly remind them of their daily tasks. 

If you’re looking for something a bit more simple, this is also a good option. 

Chore Chart Printable – Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer

If you’re looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly “missions.”

Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids

Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL, and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to feel free to share their questions and emotions, all without judgment. 

We even offer an “Exemption Time” for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences. 

Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!

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Author

Hillary Gruener is a wife, mother, writer, and musician. If she's not at her desk writing content on family life, she's adventuring the world with her husband and two boys.

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