Search Institute has identified five essential actions in parent-child relationships that help children and teens grow up well. Here are some discussion-starter questions that can help you talk with your children and teens about different parts of your relationship. The goal is not to get the right answer, but to share each person’s experiences, feelings, and beliefs so you get to know each other better.

Ask these questions when people are not rushed or distracted. Start with just one question. Then try others as long as people are interested and available. Have fun discovering new things about each other and your family.

Express Care: Different families express care in different ways. How do your family members see each other expressing care? Use these discussion starters to talk about it together.

  • When are times you’ve felt close as a family? Where were you? What were you doing? What made that time memorable?
  • What sacrifices have others made for you or your family? How have those sacrifices or investments affected your life?
  • What’s something you really enjoy doing together as a family that you haven’t had a chance to do lately? What do you enjoy about it?

Challenge Growth: Challenging growth focuses on the ways we encourage, inspire, push, or otherwise influence each other to try new things, take risks, or overcome obstacles. These discussion starters focus on how this happens–or doesn’t happen–in your family.

  • How has someone inspired you to take on a new challenge? What was inspiring to you about it? What was hard about it?
  • How does challenging other people to grow either strengthen or hurt your relationship? And how does having a strong relationship make it easier or harder to push people to learn and grow?
  • What are some challenges we’ve faced together in our family? In what ways did we grow in the midst of those challenges?

Provide Support: Everyone needs help from other people sometimes. It can be tricky, though, to find the right balance of having others support us and being responsible on our own. Use these questions to talk about the right balance for you and your family

  • Who is someone you admire who really encourages you to pursue your goals? What do they do that really matters for you?
  • Think about a recent time you were struggling with a challenge. What are some ways people in the family did (or didn’t) encourage you or advocate for you? How did their response affect you?
  • When have people tried to help you or support you when you didn’t really want it? How did you deal with that? What might you do next time?

Share Power: Parents influence kids, kids influence parents, and siblings influence each other. Families are stronger when they are intentional in the ways they share power with each other. Use these discussion prompts to explore these issues.

  • What are the ways each member of your family influences others in your family? This can include personal preferences (such as fashion or music preferences), how your family spends time and money, and core beliefs and values. Come up with at least one way each person influences each other family member.
  • What are easy areas for making decisions in your family? What are areas that are harder? What makes them easier and harder?
  • Think of several areas of family life where it’s clear who makes the decision. This could include schedule, money, activities, cooking, chores, etc. Try to imagine how these might be different if a different family member made those decisions. Have fun thinking of the possibilities!

Expand Possibility: It can be exciting and stimulating for family members to help each other explore new possibilities together. Use these questions to talk together about how people have opened up possibilities for you–and other horizons you’d love to explore together as a family.

  • What is one thing you really enjoy (such as music, ideas, foods) that someone else in the family introduced you to? Tell the story of how they introduced you to it?
  • What do you find to be enjoyable about spending time with people who are different from your family? What can make it hard?
  • Who are (or were) significant adults outside the immediate family who have or had a big influence on your life? How did or do they influence you?


For more discussion starters as well as activities to try in your family to build developmental relationships, visit You can also find discussion-starter questions on ParentFurther to talk with other parenting adults about how they build relationships with their kids.

Previous Next View All