It’s almost back-to-school time (we know, we know, it’s so soon!). After the last immensely stressful year, it’s understandable if things feel like they’re just piling up or if your whole family is kind of doing their own thing, only to cross paths at the dinner table or on your way out the door. If you are parenting adolescents, this can be even more tough! As we look to the new school year, take some time to connect or reconnect with your teens. Going back to in person learning can be both exciting and scary, the unknowns about the Delta variant could be causing anxiety (or not!), and there are still a few weeks left to make sure you hit any summer to-do’s that you have been dreaming of doing. Here are ten questions to help foster conversation and help jump start communication with your teen (or child of any age!):

* If you were an animal, what animal would you be and why? We like this one because it’s funny, not SPECIFICALLY related to emotions or feelings, but you can learn a lot. Are you a sloth because you are tired? A cheetah because you want to run away? An otter because you are having the best summer at the pool? It’s a great way to learn a little bit more without diving right into an open ended “how are you feeling” conversation.
* What are you looking forward to about this next grade? Every year of middle school and high school offers new exciting and scary opportunities. Maybe your now 7th grader is excited to actually be in person because they didn’t get to last year – and now they know more how things work. 11th grade can bring college prep stress and SAT fears – and also excitement about being bigger-kids-on-campus. There’s a lot to look forward to or have questions about!
* What’s your end of summer bucket list? Are there people you want to see, things you want to do? There’s still time to get these things checked off! Head to a new park, see a family friend you have been missing, get ice cream and watch the sunset. You might be surprised what your kid wants to do with you!
* If somebody blew a bubble that could take you anywhere in the world, where would you go? Similar to the animal one, this is a funny one but can give you a lot of cool insight into your child’s mind. Plus, sometimes these out-of-the-expected questions can help a quieter teen share!
* What has been your favorite part about this summer? It might be that this is going on a beach day trip with friends, staying up late to rent the new Black Widow movie, or something you wouldn’t have even clocked as memorable. Make sure to share your own memories too!
* What do you love about the fall? While it can be sad to have summer ending, there’s so much to look forward to for fall! What is exciting for your child? Once you know, you can make sure to lean into those things – perhaps you make a bucket list here of things you want to accomplish, too!
* Are there any things you want to keep doing when our schedule changes? Something we saw when we went back in person or transitioned from complete remote learning is that some families missed the connection, quiet, and routine they had built when it was JUST them. Of course, it was stressful and draining, but not all bad! Ask your child what they want to keep doing, if anything, that you have done this summer. There’s no reason to eliminate an hour of fun after work just because the season has changed!
* What are your thoughts about the news right now? Have you heard about? Have your friends been talking about? We always tell parents not to assume your child is having the same fears, anxieties, and stressors you are. Asking a more open-ended question can allow your teen to tell you what THEY are thinking about – it might be that they are more worried about not having the right pair of Airforce One sneakers, and less about the pandemic.

These are just a few suggestions, but any question works! Ask them roundtable during a family dinner, before bed, in the car, or on a walk. There’s no right time to communicate; it’s just important that you do. Happy end-of-summer and remember, talk early, talk often.