7 Conversation Starters: How to Get Your Kids to Talk During Dinner

Put an End to Awkward Silences at the Dinner Table

Are you tired of getting "the shrug," combined with barely audible one-word answers from your kids when you try to have a conversation? Use your family dinners to get them talking! And remember, it has to be a regular occurrence if you want to break through and get them to really open up. Use these 7 conversation starters to kick things off, and see what happens when your kids start sharing. 

  • 01 of 07

    "How was [fill in the blank]?"

    Mom having dinner with her kids.
    Photo © Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

    Don't just start with "How was your day?" It's far too easy for kids to wiggle out of that one! Instead, ask them about something specific. This is where reading your kids' school newsletter can come in handy, because it will give you just enough information to initiate some kid conversation starters. Turn what you learn into targeted questions, like "What did you think of the assembly today?" The more specific you can be with your questions, the more likely...MORE you'll get an actual response out of your kids!

    This is also why regular family dinners are so important—because you can use the information you learned yesterday to ask deeper, more probing questions. Read your kids' body language, too. Are they holding back? Tired? Struggling with something difficult? They may not come out and tell you straightaway ... so practice reading them while they're talking about other topics.

  • 02 of 07

    "Is there anything you need?"

    From help studying for a test to singing a permission slip for school, dinner is an ideal time to check in with your kids about what they need. Whenever possible, help your kids develop a plan that includes their effort, as well—not just yours. For example, if your son needs his baseball uniform washed for tomorrow's game, ask him to put it in the laundry room and pretreat any stains. This way, you'll be able to get it right into the washer and finish the job that much sooner. (Or,...MORE better yet, teach your kids how to do their own laundry!)

  • 03 of 07

    "What's on the schedule for tomorrow (or this weekend)?"

    Another classic kid conversation starter is asking your kids about any plans you have coming up, including regular visits or overnights with your ex. While you don't need to know exactly how they'll be spending their time, talking through any upcoming plans will help you to know in advance if any special supplies or gear will be needed.

  • 04 of 07

    "How are Sam and Max?"

    Your kids' friends can serve as a powerful litmus test for how your kids are handling the challenges of growing up. So take the time to get to know them and inquire occasionally into how they're doing.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    "What do you think about ..."

    Especially when they're young, your children may need help processing the things they hear at school and in the news. And dinner provides the perfect opportunity to initiate those conversations. When you're discussing something specific, such as a tragic event, ask your kids what they're heard and help fill in the blanks with factual information. Give them the chance to ask questions and share differing opinions, too.

  • 06 of 07

    "Hey, I noticed that you posted..."

    Take the time to follow your kids' social media accounts and ask them about anything that concerns you. Teach them, too, that every social post they share is public and irretrievable.

  • 07 of 07

    "How did your test go?"

    Finally, be sure to ask your kids about how things are going at school. Dinner is the perfect opportunity to check in about their progress, while you still have time left in the evening to help with studying or encourage them to give their homework one final glance before the night ends. And be sure to let your kids know that hard work does't come easily, but it does pay off!