15 Ways To Build Conversational Trust With Your Kids & Help Them Open Up

No matter how many books we read about parenting, in real life we need specific questions to ask them.

mother and daughter connecting on the couch dimaberlinphotos | Canva

If you are a parent in today's world, at some point you've probably tried talking to your kids about one important subject or another, only to end up feeling like you wanted to hit your head against the wall. It can be frustrating!

Perhaps you were ignored, or maybe you asked a slew of well-thought-out questions, only to receive a one-word answer that told you nothing in response.

No matter how many great books on child psychology and parenting advice we've read, or how many videos on communicating with children and how to talk with them on their level, as parents of a real, live family, we've all been there.


However, there are effective questions you can ask kids in order to have the kind of deep conversations you've hoped for. Before we get to the questions, we need to think about a few important elements of conversation. The three quick tricks below are the best place to start. 

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How to build conversational trust with your kids and help them open up

1. Take time alone with your kids for important questions.

Kids, in general, don't like surprises, unless it's money, vacations or food. And no one likes being put on the spot with others listening, let alone a couple of siblings or a neighbor who stopped over to have coffee.


Be careful not to ambush your kids when you want to talk. Treat them with the same courtesy you would adults and set a time and place to chat. They will be more receptive when you do, because they will feel and appreciate your respect.

2. Pay attention to when you start the conversation.

Don't bring up important questions when you kid is tired, hungry, irritable, getting her period, has a headache, has an report due the next morning at 8:00 AM or maybe is simply waiting for a text from that guy she has a crush on.

Timing is exceptionally important if you're hoping to have a meaningful conversation.

3. Share, share, share

Share your deepest feelings, fears and even secrets from growing up during appropriate moments in the conversation as you're asking questions.


Your kids need to know that you are human and you also made mistakes during your adolescence. We want our kids to see us as perfect vessels, but the truth is that you were a kid once and you've had your share of failures and successes. Keeping it real with your kids will make you more relatable and attainable, helping them feel not loved, but heard and understood as well.

Now, on to the questions ...

I've compiled and divided the list below into three sets of five questions, each related to current, important parenting topics.

RELATED: 5 Secretly Effective Ways To Talk To Your Kids (So They Actually Listen)

15 parenting questions to help kids open up about feelings, problems and more 

Timing is everything when it comes to asking your kids questions, so it's important for you to use your instincts in order to know when to begin, when to move on, and when to press your child for more information. Be mindful not to make your kids feel pushed into a corner, as well as not to lecture at them.


1. Five questions to ask if you are worried about your kid and substance use.

1. It seems like everyday I've been reading stories about cross-contaminated substances, including black market prescriptions that cause overdoses and can be fatal. Have you ever been approached by someone who wanted you to try?

2. What's happening around town? Are kids being pushed to use drugs in the places where you hang out?

3. How do you feel about what's happening with overdoses and kids taking pills not prescribed for them? 

4. Did I ever tell you how I experimented when I was young and what made me stop?

5. When we talk about serious matters like substance use and addiction, how can I be even more helpful to you?


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2. Five questions to ask if you are concerned about your child being bullied or bullying.

1. You seem sad lately. Maybe I'm reading too many articles, but are you being bullied?

2. How does your school handle bullies?

3. I was bullied in middle school and figured out some great ways to get away from the bully. May I share these memories with you?


4. Would you tell me if you were being bullied?

5. Would you tell me if you bullied someone?

3. Five questions to ask if you're concerned about how school shootings are affecting your child.

1. How do you handle your feelings and thoughts about school shootings?

2. Are you angry at us grownups for not seeming to be able to get schools 100% safe?


3. Are you okay?

4. What can I do to be helpful?

5. Would you like to work on a committee of some sort with me to make schools safer?

I hope this list gets you started and encourages you to move ahead with some difficult but important conversations you may not have known how to approach. As a psychologist, I know that genuine conversation, where true attention and focus are given to your child results in deep feelings of connection, security and trust.


Isn't that what we all want our children to feel?

RELATED: 3 Super-Tricky Questions All Kids Ask (And How To Answer 'Em!)

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein is a positive psychologist, a best-selling author, and an award-winning Selfie Filmmaker focusing on coming-of-age issues for girls and women. She is also a noted podcaster. Many of her shows and interviews can be found on YouTube and Vimeo.