Navigating Your Child's Education: Grades 9-12

3 min read

Ten Questions to Engage Your Teen

Dec 8, 2022 8:00 PM

[Editor's Note: The following has been adapted from an interview with former teacher and pastor Dave Runyon on the "Navigating Your Child's Education" podcast for parents. Make sure to check out the full conversation here.]

As parents navigating the adolescent years, it can be tempting to create a mental checklist of topics to discuss with our teens (physical intimacy, substance use, etc.) and approach those topics with a “one and done” mentality. It’s common to hear of parents having “the talk” with their tweens and teens. This approach has a singularity about it that might sound something like, “I talked about _____________ with my teen, so I can check that off the list.” Yet this method of addressing tough topics can actually serve to close lines of future communication. 

In raising our four children through the high school and early college years, I believe one of the best things my wife and I have done as parents is to approach particularly challenging topics as a series of conversations rather than just one-time discussions. Rather than saying to ourselves, “Yes, we talked about that; I can check that off,” we instead of intentionally looked for ways to continue being in conversation with our children. We’ve sought connection points to engage in continual dialogue rather than one “final” conversation about a wide range of topics. One area of life in which this strategy has been especially helpful is in our very own neighborhood. 

Starting in 2011, my family and I began a journey of being intentional, present, and loving neighbors to those who live around us. Choosing to spend time with people based on geography, we’ve developed many relationships with our neighbors who often think about the world differently than we do, hold different values than us, and view life through a different lens than we do. Moments where this reality has been very obvious to our kids have inspired wonderful dialogue between my wife and me and our kids. Many “teachable moments” have arisen through interacting with our different-than-us neighbors. Though at times awkward or uncomfortable, these moments have opened the door for us to discuss big questions with our children. 

Upper School Girl

One of the best, most practical ways that my wife and I have made sure to stay in open dialogue with our children is an annual tradition at the end of each year. As each new year approaches, we give our children a list of ten questions for them to reflect on and discuss with us. They are typically the same ten questions, which makes it fun and interesting to compare their responses from year to year. One question we always include is, “Has anything happened in your life in the last year that we don’t know about but that you think we should know about?”  

The reality is there are times that our children—like any others—have found themselves in situations in our neighborhood, at school, with their friends, or elsewhere that might not get brought up in regular conversation. That one question has given us more incredible parenting moments than any other single thing. Asking them a question about such a moment provides them an opportunity to reflect and share, and our children’s responses have almost brought forth honest and insightful conversation. Another question we always ask is, “Is there anything (nothing is off limits) that you would like to talk with us about or ask us about?” Maintaining curiosity towards our child’s life can help us as parents catch dial in to their internal world and guide us into a deeper connection with them through meaningful dialogue. 

Here are the ten questions we ask our children. Use them or develop your own! Whatever they may be, I encourage my fellow parents to make annual conversation starters a part of your end-of-year rhythm. (Click on the image for a downloadable PDF version.)

Screenshot 2022-12-08 3.03.14 PM


Worthington Christian School
Written by Worthington Christian School

Founded in 1973, Worthington Christian School (WC) is central Ohio’s leader in Christian education offering a rigorous, college preparatory kindergarten to 12-grade academic program, dedicated to developing the mind of Christ in students through rigorous intellectual, creative, and physical pursuits.