If you haven’t noticed, asking your teenager “How was your day?” typically elicits nothing more than a grunt, mumble, or eye-roll.
As parents of teenagers ourselves, we’ve been there, and we feel your pain!
But after your son or daughter has experienced the intensity of a life-changing experience such as a mission trip, asking “How was your trip?” can be even more paralyzing for them to answer.
Why? Because articulating the details of such a spiritually, emotionally, and physically new experience from a broad, non-specific question is overwhelming for most teenagers. And it can certainly be frustrating for parents who haven’t shared in this experience with their kids and just want to know more!
5 tips to getting your teen to open up and talk to you about their mission trip experience
- Be interested, but patient. Don’t pester them with too many questions all at once, and allow time for your teen to process the experience over days and weeks to come. It takes time to properly reflect on all that God has allowed them to see and do on their mission trip.
- Look through photos together! Take time to be present and look through photos they’ve taken and allow them to share the experience through their eyes. If your teenager went on a Group Workcamp or Week of Hope organized by Group Mission Trips, visit your Group Page portal site (ask your trip leader if you don’t remember the site) to view camp photos from your teenager’s location.
- Ask open-ended but specific questions that draw out stories and dialogue. DO NOT ASK “How was your mission trip?” or “Did you have a good time?” (But don’t worry if you already asked that question and it bombed, we’ve got more conversation prompts below!)
- Listen and be present. Whenever they start to open up and share, try to stop what you’re doing and engage in conversation with intentional listening. Seize the moment!
- Affirm your teenager for participating in a week that focused on serving others. Tell them you’re proud of them, and tell them WHY you’re proud! Also, if your teenager went on a Group Workcamp or Week of Hope organized by Group Mission Trips, be sure they download and print out their community service award which is located on your Group Page portal site. These community service awards are very helpful for certain high school requirements and college applications!
6 easy conversation starters that’ll get your teen talking
- “What surprised you the most about the trip?”
- “Tell me what a typical day was like on your mission trip”
- “What person on the trip impacted you the most?”
- “What challenges were you and your crew able to overcome?”
- “Did you have any ‘God-sightings’ moments where you felt connected to or witnessed God’s presence?”
- “What did you learn about yourself on this trip?”
Kami Gilmour is the mom of five teen and young adult kids. She and her husband, Tim, are enjoying their new role as empty nesters and replacing the chaos of kids by adopting rescue dogs. Kami is the parent champion and a mission trip leader for Group Mission trips, and she’s also the author of a best-selling devotional book for parents that chronicles her imperfect journey of parenting in this season of letting go: Release My Grip: Hope for a Parent’s Heart as Kids Leave the Nest and Learn to Fly.