From a Teen’s Perspective: Three alternatives to “How was your day?” for parents

by Dylan Lanier on November 14, 2023

It’s 3:00 pm. I walk through the front door and sling my backpack down with a sigh before heading into the kitchen for a much-needed snack. My mom follows me in and asks the dreaded question: “How was your day?” I muster up an uninspired “fine” before selecting my carb of choice and mentally running through all the homework I have to get done that day.

I’m sure many parents and teens can relate to this frequent scenario. And I can empathize with both sides. On the one hand, I love that my parents want to take the time to hear about my day even though they have busy lives as well. However, I’m also typically exhausted and easily irritated by their “nagging” and “intrusive” interrogations (yes, these adjectives seem silly now that I put my emotions into words, but at the time it’s exactly how I feel!).

My years of experience with this classic after-school conversation have taught me two things: 1. That it’s a great way to connect with my parents and lift my mood, but 2. It has to be approached in the right way. So today, I would like to share three alternatives to, “How was your day?” that alleviate the “ughhhh” of teenage angst and promote a lengthy, uplifting discussion.

1. Start with a story of your own! Parents, take initial charge of the conversation to allow your teen to warm up. Tell a funny story or share an interesting anecdote from your day to pique their interest. This will alleviate their frustration of immediately having to engage and will encourage them to respond on their own.

“Do you want to hear about…” is always a great way to start because it puts your teen in control. Oftentimes, we react negatively to “How was your day?” for the same reason we don’t like doing chores — someone is telling us to do it, or in this case, to respond. By starting the conversation yourself, you’re showing your teen that you respect their decision to talk or not, and in doing so, encourage them to respond.

2. Reference a previous discussion! “How was your day?” is such an open-ended question that it can feel difficult to sum up without a single-word response. Instead, follow up with your teen about something you’ve already discussed. For example, you could say something like, “Did you find out the Friday Night Football theme?” or “How did Ashley’s conversation with her boyfriend go? Did they break up?”

This way, you’re not only showing your teen that you remember the details about their life, but you also enter into a conversation that you’ve already had success with in the past. However, try to steer clear of negative topics like difficult classes — no one wants to be asked about the test they think they failed.

3. Use the power of a good meme! My mom loves Instagram Reels (sorry for outing you, mom). And she extremely loves sharing them with me when I get home. While I often find them cringy, they are effective conversation-starters, even if that conversation begins with “That’s not even funny!” (I’m secretly trying to suppress my laugh). Finding a funny video or telling a Dad Joke™ can be the perfect way to lighten up the mood and provide a much-appreciated brain break for your teen after a long day of academic rigor.

These conversation-starters aren’t always successful. It’s important to remember that sometimes your teen just needs their own space. However, when done right, the after-school conversation is a valuable and effective way to connect.

Got any topics you want me to cover? Email with your requests!

Dylan Lanier is a senior at Meno-Atherton High School. His column appears weekly.

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