How to Craft a Meaningful Conversation With Your Teen

At a point in time where we all agree the career landscape is rapidly changing, our young people are being asked the question, “What are you going to do with the rest of your life?” much sooner.

The transition between school and ‘the rest of your life’ can seem a little daunting, especially when ‘what’s on the other side’ represents everything that is unknown. While we as adults might be able to see an abundance of opportunity for this next generation, our young people are feeling overwhelmed and anxious. They don’t want to “just choose”, nor do they want to settle. Many of them want to make a change in our world, but they don’t always know where to start.

As the trusted adults in their lives, we can offer support and guidance around ways they can make their mark. In finding out the why rather than what in the things that they want to do, we can disrupt the perceived pressure and even break through the grunts that tend to articulate this age. The benefits of crafting ‘Why’ conversations with our teens go beyond clarity of subject choices. For our millennials, a sense of purpose is deeply associated with a greater desire and willingness to positively impact their schools, communities, and wider society. In knowing what they stand for, young people with a sense of purpose accomplish greater achievements in adulthood.  So how can we, as trusted adults in their lives, guide them through the task of uncovering what makes their heart sing?

Research suggests that meaningful conversations are key to the development of purpose amongst our young people.

 Photo @charli.powerrr Photo @charli.powerrr
Here’s three things to try when next chatting to your teen.
Pay attention to the things that happen easily
There’s always activities and tasks that take us into long battles with teens. But can you shift your mindset for a moment and notice what they do with ease? Are there patterns in the activities and interests your teen pursues independently? These are likely to be connected to what psychologists call their signature character strengths. Using character strengths is naturally energising, and likely to drive motivation for goals. Spot the strengths and celebrate them!

Instead of asking them what they want to do, ask why  

Dare to ask the big questions. Find out what matters to them. Ask, “What would a perfect planet look like to you?”. Then follow with “Why?” Ask why something is interesting and important to them. Why it captures their curiosity and imagination.

Replace “but” with “and”

We can unintentionally shut purpose crafting conversations down with one small discouraging word. When responding to a young person’s ideas, start with “Yes, and”. In swapping out this one little word, you’ll both keep and open mind and explore much more of the possibilities in the conversation!

Yes, And…

…if those grunts prevail, don’t be discouraged. Even one meaningful question, asked at the right time and from the perspective of genuine interest will open the door for future purpose driven conversations. Once they’ve been asked these big questions, a teen will naturally begin to answer them for themselves over time. In the meantime, walk the talk yourself and turn your attention to your own journey. Now that you’ve grown up, do you know why you do what you do?

Keen for more?

We love working with young people to connect them closer to their own unique purpose. Contact us here to find out how we can work individually with a young person in your life, or about the workshops, programs and coaching we offer in schools and community groups.

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Jenna O'Connell

Jenna is a teacher and careers counsellor, with a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Drama & Performance), Bachelor of Education (K-12), and Graduate Certificate in Education Studies (Careers & Transitions).

Jenna is in her element when she is helping people and organisations discover their unique magic, and working with them in sharing this magic with the world to drive positive change. Her background sees an amalgam of over 15 years across corporate and education sectors, with extensive experience in curriculum development, coaching, facilitation, and mentorship.

Jenna contributes to various local youth projects and initiatives. Throughout 2017-2018, she mentored local youth in their project, Cards For Change, who went on to win a $2000 Pitch Project grant. She also volunteers for The Luminosity Youth Summit, is the Youth Ambassador Program Coordinator for Dyslexia Mid North Coast, and a proud ambassador for and presenter at #LitFest2444.

Mariane Power

Mariane is a Clinical Psychology Registrar and holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Newcastle, a Graduate Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Performance. Mariane’s big audacious goal is to see all unnecessary emotional pain and suffering eliminated within her lifetime, and she is obsessed with all things related to human potential. Mariane has over 15 years experience in consulting, facilitation and corporate training for personal and strategic growth. Her work as a Leadership Consultant in the corporate world further fuels her understanding of the necessary skills for the 21st Century workplace, and she has a particular interest in supporting our next generation to thrive.  Mariane is proud to have extended her personal purpose to support a number of not-for-profit and for-purpose initiatives including The Luminosity Summit and Project Gen Z, and she currently extends her expertise in positive youth development as an Impact Leader on the Board for Ambisie.


If you or anyone you know requires specific mental health support, please contact your local GP or registered mental health provider for advice and assistance.

The following services also provide resources and support:

  • Mental Health Access Line 1800 011 511 
  • Beyondblue 
  • LifeLine 11 13 14 
  • Headspace 
  • Reach Out

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