Want to engage with your kids and help them think deeper? These family conversation starters will ignite discussion and critical thinking.
Conversations with our kids can sometimes feel repetitive, don’t you think?
We ask, “How was school?” to get the predictable “Good” response. We might dive into asking what they did at school, which is better, but not by much.
Beyond getting more than a one-word answer, I wanted to learn how to spur conversation with my kids to get them to think differently. I knew how important family conversation starters can be to encourage critical thinking and instill values.
Family conversation starters
Once in a while, whether reading a book or listening to a podcast, I’d come across a recommended question to ask kids. I would then jot it down on my phone to save and use.
Over time, I came up with six essential questions parents should ask kids and have compiled them below. I also explain the goal of the question, and how asking it can help develop confidence, gratitude, and a positive outlook within your child.
Take a look at these family conversation starters to ask:
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1. “How do you want to change the world?”
In the sixth grade, my class had an assignment of drawing a poster of what we wanted to be when we grew up. But when the time came for me to draw a poster, I had no idea what I wanted to be. I remember panicking at the thought of not being able to turn in an assignment on time (yep, I was that kid).
Finally, on the last day, I drew myself as… a paleontologist. Not because I had any interest in dinosaurs, but because the movie Jurassic Park was all the rage.
We spend far too much time asking kids what they want to be when they grow up, when really, we should ask them how they want to change the world. After all, we don’t always have to identify with a particular career path. In fact, many different careers point to similar intentions.
We shouldn’t focus so much on careers as we should on our calling. What is your child driven to do? How does he see herself making a difference around him? By talking about the impact he can make, he’ll be less constrained by careers and more focused making the world a better place.
2. “What are you excited about for today?”
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Ask your child what she’s most excited about for the day (breakfast is a good time for this). Why is this question important?
You’re encouraging her to think and act positively throughout the day. According to The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani, imagining the “perfect day” helps us stay positive, even when things go wrong.
Imagining positive outcomes doesn’t mean things are perfect, but we can weather negative events better.
Asking her what she’s excited about also extends the positive feelings not just to the moment itself (time spent at the park). She’ll also be excited about it beforehand as she’s anticipating it (waiting at home until it’s time to go).
3. “What was your favorite part of the day?”
This is a fantastic question to ask at dinner or bedtime, whether your child’s day was mundane or extraordinary. She falls asleep with a positive picture of her favorite part of the day, helping her have a good night’s sleep and feel satisfied with how the day has gone.
Asking her favorite part of the day also helps her focus on the positive things that happened, even if not-so-happy things did as well. This doesn’t mean we brush difficult feelings aside (as you’ll see in the next question), but you help her remember that good things do still happen.
And finally, she can determine her interests and passions. She can learn more about herself as she notices that she tends to mention “painting at school” or “eating with family” over and over.
4. “What was hard about today? How did you get through it?”
We all have hard days, kids included. Encouraging your child to talk about her challenges shows that you’re open to listening to her not-so-good days. That you’re not always expecting her to have a wonderful day, or feel disappointed if she happens to have a hard one.
She also learns how to focus on getting through challenges instead of dwelling on them or letting them sour her for a long time. Not only are you asking what was hard, you’re showing that you’re curious about the ways she overcame those obstacles.
And finally, you’re celebrating her grit and perseverance, two crucial skills she needs to thrive. For instance, my son admitted that he had a hard time stringing beads on a shoelace. But then, he proudly said he had kept trying until he figured it out.
5. “What are you grateful for?”
Gratitude can make a powerful impact on how kids view the world. They go from a “scarcity mindset” of never having enough, to an “abundance mindset” of realizing how much they have. I know it has for me.
Ask your child what she’s grateful for in her life. She’s reminded of all the wonderful things she has, from her parents to her house to her favorite toys.
You can also talk about her day and have her share which part of it she’s most thankful for. It might be the special trip to the ice cream store, playing checkers with the family, or eating her favorite pasta dish.
Gratitude shifts our thinking away from the empty feeling of lack, to genuine pleasure in living in the moment. I highly encourage you to practice this question not just with your child, but with yourself as well!
6. “What do you love about yourself?”
I’ll be honest: I never thought to ask this question in the past. I assumed it would breed self-conceit and entitlement in my kids, where they think they’re better than everyone else.
But as I read more about self-love, I realized how powerful it is to equip our kids with the ability to truly love themselves.
For one thing, having self-confidence can help keep limiting beliefs, doubts, and criticisms at bay. They can also turn into themselves, remembering what’s awesome about them, when they feel down. And at the end of the day, all of us need to love ourselves to give love to others.
As I should’ve known, when I asked my kids this question, I didn’t turn them into braggarts or spoiled brats. Instead, they answered with honesty and humble realization of how awesome they are: “I love that I know how to draw!” “That I can run fast!” or “I like to play.”
These family conversation starters spark discussions and help your child grow into a wholesome person.
Asking what she’s excited about for the day helps her stay positive and weather even the downsides of her day. Talking about what was hard develops grit and perseverance, while being grateful for fills her with a feeling of abundance.
Sharing her favorite part of the day ends it on a positive note, while talking about what she loves about herself reinforces the confidence she has. And asking how she can change the world—rather than what she wants to be when she grows up—opens possibilities and different ways to leave a mark.
Start with these six questions, but most importantly, follow her lead and keep the conversations going. There’s always something to learn with these family conversation starters.
At least now you won’t be stuck with “How was your day?” and the always predictable “Good” as your only response.
Get more tips:
- 20 Open Ended Questions for Kids You Should Ask
- 6 Reasons to Stop Labeling Kids
- How to Motivate Children to Do Their Best
- Want a Child Who Can Think Critically? Start with This.
- Tell Your Kids You Love Them, Even when It’s Hard To
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