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How To Text Your Teens So That They'll Actually Text You Back

If your kid responds to your texts with full sentences in a timely manner, THIS IS NOT FOR YOU.

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Unhappy young girl sitting at the steps outside and texting
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If your kid responds to your texts with full sentences in a timely manner, THIS IS NOT FOR YOU.

This is for adults whose “How was your weekend?” and “How are classes?” texts echo with the sound of silence.

Oftentimes, teens won’t tell us stuff simply because it’s too boring for them to have to relive and retype it. Or, they’re busy — they’ll get to it later (then forget).

If you’re after a general update, try asking specific questions that are quick and easy to answer. We’ve supplied a few Girlfriend-tested approaches below that yielded prompt and insightful intel.

If you can, avoid the temptation to follow up with more questions right away by asking, “I’d love to hear more about X, is now a good time to talk?” This respects their schedule and will hopefully create a dread-free space for future conversations.

On a scale of 1-10

This is a great way to gauge your kid’s mood or experience. Try asking: “On a scale of one to 10, how was the chem exam?” or “… how annoying is your roommate?” Believe it or not, a number can say a lot.

Three adjectives

Everyone loves a game. This line of questioning challenges your teen to find accurate adjectives that sum an event or their state of mind. “Give me three words to describe your (weekend/coach/new crush).” Choosing an odd number is strategic — you’ll get a deeper insight if two out of the three adjectives are negative or positive.

Done and fun

Summer camp fill-in-the-blank letters work for a reason — maximum yield with minimal effort. Ask your son/daughter to fill in: “Glad it’s Done:” and “Gonna Be Fun:”. It’s a twist on Rose & Thorn, the dinner-table convo cue about sharing the best and worst part of the day or week. You won’t get a blow-by-blow, but it offers a nice highlight reel.

Gifs that keep on giving

Text: “Send me a gif of your current mood.” Gifs are animated images that are usually overly dramatic or comedic, and teens know them well. It has the added bonus of helping them send a serious answer in a lighthearted way. Or, ask for an emoji response if that’s easier.

10 questions

Schedule regular Sunday night calls when you get to ask 10 questions. This lets your teen know that you expect answers, but that there’s an end in sight. Usually their answer will lead to your next question, so keep track. Sometimes they’ll cut you off after 10, but at least you’ve got fodder for a longer convo next time.