Positive Parenting

“Would You Rather” Questions for Kids with ADHD (and More Inspired Conversation Starters)

“How was your day?” Nothing inspires shrugs and grunts better than an uninspired question. To spark a real conversation with your kid, try asking one of these “would you rather” questions — plus find additional pointers and ideas to inspire connection here.

Father talking with tween son in residential kitchen
Credit: Getty Images/MoMo Productions

“Would you rather swim in Jell-O or chocolate sauce?”

“If you could have superpowers, what would they be?”

“What do you think will be most challenging thing about life after high school?”

These questions inspire laughter and sometimes even deep thought, yes. But, more importantly, they open the door to meaningful connection with your child – which is especially important if the parent-child bond has been strained or complicated by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD).

The right kind of question – asked at the right time and with the best intentions – can make children of all ages feel understood and valued, which contributes immensely to their development and to the entire family’s wellbeing.

Whether your child is in elementary school or a teen on their way to college, use these age-appropriate, ADHD-friendly questions and pointers to spark conversation and create meaningful, joyful connections within your family.

Questions for Kids in Elementary School

“Would You Rather” Questions

Why these questions work: They elicit laughter and lightness (maybe even inside jokes), relieve stress, and challenge your child to think creatively as you learn more about them. These questions are also easy to devise on the fly – as you’re all in the car or at the dinner table – and can be tailored to your child’s interests. Here are some sample questions for inspiration:

[See All These Questions in This Free Handout: How to Get Your Child Talking]

Would you rather…

  • …only ever have ice cream or cake for dessert?
  • …have a snake or a mouse under your bed?
  • …go back in time or go forward in time?
  • …be a lot smarter or live a lot longer?
  • …be a cat or a dog?
  • …live next to a garbage dump or a pig sty?

Imaginary “If You Could” Questions

  • If you could change one thing about our neighborhood, what would it be?
  • If you could go anywhere in the world to live for a year, where would you go?
  • If you could make sure one animal never goes extinct, what would it be?
  • If you could prevent one kind of natural disaster, what would it be and why?

Why these questions work: These delve deeper than “would you rather” questions by revealing your child’s values and encouraging them to think about cause and effect, all within a light, fun framework.

Questions for Kids in Middle School

Early adolescence is defined, in part, by heightened emotions, frenzied hormones, and insecurity, all of which affect your child’s family interactions. Your job is to tread carefully and pick up on clues from your middle schooler about how they’re feeling. That will determine the kinds of questions you can ask them, as well as your success rate.

[Read: Plan. Trust. Hug. Your Mantra for Raising a Tween with ADHD]

“What’s Going on Around You?”

It will always be easier for your middle schooler to answer general, safe questions – about the world, about school, about other people – rather than inquiries specific to them. As a rule of thumb, always start with broad questions, especially if your child’s emotions are unclear and/or volatile.

Examples of safe questions:

  • How do you think most middle schoolers choose friends?
  • What do you think is most important to the other kids in your grade?
  • What’s the hardest thing about middle school for most kids?
  • What do you think kids want more of at school?
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen in middle school?
  • What’s the best thing that could happen in middle school?

These questions can help launch safe dialogues that allow your child to reflect on the social climate at school, their friendship group, and other happenings around them. They also help build the habit of comfortable silence – reinforcing the idea that it’s OK to stop and think to answer a question – and pave the way for difficult conversations about deeper issues.

“What’s Going on With You?”

Questions about your child’s inner world will give you a lens into their thoughts, experiences, and challenges. You may learn things in these conversations that your middle schooler may have never thought to share with you. These talks will also help them build self-awareness, deepen their emotional intelligence, and reinforce that they can come to you for serious matters.

Sample questions to ask your child:

  • Which friends do you wish you could see more of?
  • What’s the most disappointing thing that’s happened lately?
  • What do you wish was different about your school?
  • Where is your favorite place to relax?
  • Who’s your favorite person to relax with?

Deep, intensely personal questions about your child can elicit defensiveness and emotional reactivity.

  • Save these questions for when your child feels relaxed and safe, which won’t be after a stressful day at school or an argument with another family member.
  • Keep your cool – even if your tween doesn’t.

Questions for Teens

Conversations About the Present

Teens with ADHD may not feel like they have it all figured out — whether that’s friends, academics, their sense of self, and/or life after high school altogether. These unknowns often fuel their inner critic.

Teens need guidance and support as they transition into adulthood, even if they are reluctant to ask for and accept help. They also want to feel heard, without judgment.

Questions about the present will help you settle into the role of coach and advisor for your teen. You’ll gain insights into current challenges and help them develop a supportive inner voice that will facilitate problem-solving, encourage independence, build confidence, and prepare your teen for the challenges of young adulthood.

Phrase these questions in any way that make sense to the situation:

  • What’s on your mind?
  • Would you like to talk about it? I’ll just listen.
  • What’s the real problem here?
  • What options do you see?
  • Are there a few options that seem best? Why?
  • What do you want?
  • How can you get there?

Conversations About the Future

Asking your teen questions about their future will help them get better at planning and prioritizing and at anticipating hurdles. You’ll also learn how to best support them along the way.

But the future can be a very touchy subject. The wrong approach can alienate your teen and cause unnecessary stress at home.

The best way to proceed is to meet your teen in the middle. The right time and place – when your teen is relaxed and receptive – makes a big difference. Setting the expectation about a future conversation on the topic also helps.

Your tone matters, too. Your teen may not want to talk to you if you’re grilling them, being judgmental, or letting your stress show through.

Sample questions and approaches:

  • Sometime, I’d like to hear your thoughts about life after high school.
  • When’s a good time for us to talk about college applications? My timetable is probably sooner than yours, so maybe we can meet in the middle.
  • What do you think will be most challenging about life after high school?

Bonus: The Do’s and Don’ts of Conversation

  • Breathe after you ask a question. You might not be used to using questions to connect, and that’s OK. Most parents are used to talking at their child; learning to listen is a skill.
  • Reflect, validate, and go deeper. Rephrase your child’s answer to show that you’re tuned in. (“So you’re saying that…”) Be empathetic, even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying (“That sounds really frustrating…”). Encourage more conversation. (“What else?” ”What do you mean?” ”Go on.”)
  • Don’t forget nonverbals. Smile and make eye contact with your child. Looking away at your phone or elsewhere conveys that you’re disengaged and uninterested in what your child has to say. Do your best to be fully present.
  • Don’t panic. Your child might tell you about a tough situation they’re facing; do your best not to freak out and assume that they need rescuing. (It may make your child reluctant to talk to you in the future about similar situations.)
  • Don’t give advice or share your experiences. Many times, children (and adults!) just want to feel heard and valued. Giving advice and dismissing your child’s emotions will push them away. Again, reflect, validate, and go deeper instead.
  • Don’t say anything to the effect of “I knew it” “I thought so” or “I was right.” This approach is off-putting, annoying, and will quickly shut down your child.
  • Thank your child for sharing their thoughts. It’s not always easy for children and teens to have honest conversations with parents. Expressing gratitude will mean the world to them.

Questions for Kids with ADHD: Next Steps

The content for this article was derived, in part, from the ADDitude ADHD Experts webinar titled, Bonding Activities: Effective, Practical Relationship-Building Ideas for ADHD Families [Video Replay & Podcast #387] with Norrine Russell, Ph.D., which was broadcast live on February 10, 2022.

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