It is easy to fall into the trap of giving advice and information that you think is important and forgetting to make room for the questions your teen would love to ask you. Yes, open and frank discussions about everything from money management to the birds and the bees are important for your teenager to hear the facts instead of the “friend who heard it from a friend” facts.
However, your soon to be adult will probably have plenty of burning questions about your experiences as a teen, or why you say and do the things you do today. Giving your child the opportunity to delve into your history and motivations is an important step in building an open and trusting two-way relationship.
For example, if you got into trouble as a teen, you may want to share those experiences with your child. If you keep your history from your teen, and they find out at a later date, your child may feel like you were dishonest with them. It may also cause them to question what else you have kept from them.
Giving your kids the chance to ask why you say or do things also helps to reduce miscommunications. Perhaps they think you won’t hand over the keys to the car because you don’t trust them, when in fact you are worried they might end up in an accident through no fault of their own. Having a relationship where your child can ask “Why?” cuts down on crossed wires.
We sat down with a group of teens and asked them what they would like to ask their parents, and this is what they told us.
20 Do You Stalk Me On Social Media?
This is indeed one to put you on the spot. If you lie, you could strain your relationship, and if you do stalk, you can still look untrusting.
If you are a social stalker be honest and say yes, and then explain why you do it.
Is it because your teen is reluctant to share their life with you and you just want to know what’s happening? Or is it that you follow what they are up to because you can’t relinquish control and are having trouble letting go of your baby?
19 When Did You Start Partying?
Again, a double-edged sword of a question. Say no, and you were a goodie-goodie who didn’t understand. Say yes, and you could be a hypocrite. Again, honesty and empathy are the best approaches.
Try: “No, I didn’t party before I could legally go out because I chose not to. Yes there was peer pressure and yes I had the opportunity, but that was the choice I made, and I am not judging you.”
Or: “Yes, I partied before I should have and I know from experience the problems that can cause. I don’t want you to go down the same road because I want to spare you those negative experiences if I can.”
18 Did You Plan Me?
This question came out of left field, mainly because, I have never wondered if I was planned or an accident or a surprise. However, for some teens, this seems to be important, and the need to know is tangled up in issues of self-esteem and feelings of worth.
For some people, the knowledge that they were planned gives them a sense of value and the feeling that they were wanted while the knowledge that their creation was accidental can lead them to extrapolate to the point where they feel they were never wanted.
Be sure, to be honest, but to support any revelations that could be considered negative, with positivity.
17 What's The Worst Thing You Did As A Teenager?
This can actually be a very positive bonding experience, especially if you did something foolish and still have no idea what made you do it.
Not only does this remind you of how you once were but it also shows your child that you too are human and have made mistakes.
Explain what you did, and be honest about your motivations, the impact it had on you at the time and how you feel about it today.
On the flip side, if the worst thing you ever did was return a library book a day late, try not to be too self-righteous about what a perfect teen you were.
16 Did You Ever Get In Trouble?
This is a biggie, I know, and it might be an event which you do not want to share with your teen. Perhaps you are ashamed of what you did, or maybe you worry your child might see you in a bad light if you admit to it. Whatever the reason you have not shared this chapter of your life until now, if your teenager asks you directly, answer truthfully.
Tell your offspring what happened and what you learned from the experience but don’t allow them to use the information to justify an adverse decision of their own. Make it clear that just because you made a mistake, doesn’t make it OK and doesn’t diminish their wrongdoings.
15 How About Something You Didn’t Get Caught Doing?
Again, if you did something you regret, but didn’t get caught doing it, fess up and discuss the entire incident from beginning to end, especially if it has affected you in later life.
It is also useful to discuss any incidents that you considered OK at the time, but in retrospect you regret. It could be something you look back on and regret such as cheating on a test or treating somebody badly without their knowledge.
14 Do You Trust Me?
Easy enough to answer if you do trust your child... trickier if you do not.
The key to this answer is not to place the focus on your kiddo or to cast aspersions on their character. So, “I can’t trust you because you lie,” is a big no-no.
But, “Since you told me you were going to spend the night at Kates and you went to a party instead, I find it hard to let myself fully believe you, but I am working on it, and you can help by continuing to be truthful,” is better.
13 Did You Ever Get Peer Pressured?
If you were ever peer pressured, talk about it with your teenage and admit to what you did. Use the opportunity to discuss not whether or not your experience or otherwise make your child's experimentation OK but to talk about health, safety, peer pressure, and self-respect.
Of course, tailor this discussion to your teen's age. What you say to your thirteen-year-old is going to be different from what you say to your seventeen-year-old.
12 Why Do You Ask Who I’m Texting?
It may come as a surprise to some moms to discover they ask questions on auto-pilot, without really thinking about why they are asking or why they need the information. You might also be surprised to find out that your teen sees this as an invasion of privacy or a lack of trust.
If you are asking because you are interested, say so and ask your teen if they would rather you didn’t ask, and stop if this is the case. If it is because you worry they are being groomed or something similar, tell them your fears. Yes, they are likely to dismiss your worries as ill-founded, but at least your child will know you are making inquiries out of concern and not out of distrust.
11 Do You Search My Room When I’m Out?
The impact of searching your teenager's room should not be something you first think about when they ask you this question. It should be something you give very serious consideration to, well before you even open their bedroom door.
While you might feel there are strong reasons for searching, by doing so, you are at risk of straining your relationship.
If you are considering searching your child's room, you should actually give them a heads-up. “I am concerned you are being irresponsible, and I feel the need to check you have nothing in your room from time to time,” might sound counterproductive - yes they might hide their stuff elsewhere - but it won’t lead to conflict and distrust.
10 Would You Rather I Had No Friends Or Friends You Don’t Like?
Don’t allow yourself to get drawn into a conversation where you end up speaking poorly about your teen's friends. Adolescence is a problematic transitionary phase where your teenager is working out who they are, outside of their role in the family and the friendships they form are an essential part of this process.
Negative remarks about friends are usually taken personally and can set up an adversarial situation.
Instead, let your teen know you want them to have good friends who enhance their life and have a positive contribution. Offer to spend more time with their friends and get to know them rather than push them away.
9 When Did You Have Your First Relationship?
Be honest with your teenager but place the emphasis more on the circumstances, rather than the age you were when it happened.
This means considering maturity levels over the simple number of someone's age. Moreover, maturity levels differ between girls and boys, so discuss how relationships can be affected by someone's maturity level. And, of course, not all relationships are between boys and girls, so be sure to keep your language (and mind) open, so your teen knows you will be accepting of them and those they pursue a relationship with.
Also, by taking the time to reinforce the importance of relationships, you show your teen that you are understanding of this (hormonal) period of their life and that you are open to talking with them about it.
8 What Do You Really Think Of My Friends?
Again, if you like your child’s friend, all well and good, but if you don’t, then tread carefully. Start out by trying to find something good to say about them and don’t launch into a tirade about them.
Then highlight the fact that it is not up to you to like all of your child's friends, and that the fact that they are good, honest, trustworthy and supportive friends to your teen is what is important.
Admit that “so and so” might not be your favorite person in the world but if they are important to your teenage then, as long as that friend is respectful in your home, you will always welcome them into your home and be nice.
7 Have You Ever Been Dishonest?
If you have not, then this is an easy one to address and move on from. If you were dishonest in a past relationship it can be a useful talking point about honesty and trust, and how relationships should work.
If you have been dishonest in your current relationship, it is something you should discuss ahead of time with your current partner as to whether or not you want to share that information. If not, this is one occasion where it is totally acceptable to say “some things are private and not appropriate to discuss with anyone other than the person directly affected” although this answer is one which really says “yes, but I’m not going to talk about it.”
6 Have You Ever Read My Diary?
Again, you want to be able to look your child in the eye and honestly say yes.
One of the biggest challenges of parenthood is learning to give space and privacy to your teen while still “poking your nose in” enough to ensure they remain safe. Everyone is entitled to privacy, but privacy does not automatically equal secrets. Can you honestly say you would be happy for every member of your family to know every thought and feeling that passes through you?
If you are concerned about your child, talk with them and do everything you can to discover what is really happening in their life before you get to the stage where breaching their trust is the only way to discover the truth.
5 How Did You Get On With Your Parents?
This is a win-win question for you. Either you got on well with your folks - which proves it can be done - or you did not get on well with them, and so you understand how important it is to build a positive relationship.
It is also an excellent question to prompt a discussion about how relationships change over time.
Highlight how the teenage years can be difficult for everybody and how most teens will have issues as both they and their parents adjust as the kids mature and the parents learn to let go.
4 Did You Get Good Grades At School?
Even if you didn’t get good grades, and there is no way your child might discover this, don’t be tempted to lie. You will actually get much more out of the conversation if you fess-up and admit to having bad grades and talk about how this has affected your life.
It is also an excellent way of opening up a discussion about how your teen is getting on at school, and if they are struggling academically, you will have the chance to speak with them about the reasons.
3 Do You Feel The Way I Do?
Finally, a question which doesn’t have answers that are a minefield.
Feel free to admit to being as cringingly embarrassed as your teen is when you try to talk about the birds and the bees. Be open about the fact that it is no fun for you to try and discuss their changing hormones or period pains with a person you will always think of as your little baby.
Sharing your discomfort can do nothing but strengthen your bond, and when your teenager knows you are having trouble making eye contact, it will help them feel less shifty about these "talks".
2 Why Do You Insist On Asking Me Questions All Of The Time?
To you, asking questions might be a way of finding out about your teenagers day. You may feel that because they are not forthcoming with information about their day-to-day life, you have to ask your teen about it. Us moms also tend to believe that by asking questions we are showing an interest and demonstrating that we care.
Meanwhile, your growing child is seeing it as nothing but an interrogation.
This is the perfect demonstration of a situation where things are done with good intent but give the wrong impression.
Tell your teenager you want to show you care and stay involved. Work out a way, between the two of you, where you will ask fewer questions, and your teenager will be more forthcoming.
1 What Do You Think Of Me?
It is a well-known fact that even when you are a fully grown adult with a family yourself, and you think you do not care about your parent's approval, we still want to feel loved and wanted by the people who brought us into the world.
Don’t give passive-aggressive compliments like “I know you are very bright, I just wish you would apply yourself.’ Instead, stick to clear-cut positives like “You make me happy to be your mom.”