1. How's life?
I've been asking her this question since she was old enough to talk. When she was little, she used to answer this one with things like, "very purple." Or, "tastes like chicken." But now that she's almost 10, sometimes I get somewhere with this one. "Sucky" is what she says when she wants me to ask a more direct question or pry for more details. But when I get a "fine," I know that question isn't going to get anywhere, so I don't press it.
That's the key with these questions; you don't have to press your kids to answer. If they need to talk, these questions lead them to an opportunity to confide in you.
2. What's up with your friends?
Occasionally, I will ask about a specific friend if I know a kid has been going through something, or if she's told me about a disagreement she's trying to work out, but most of the time, I pose this question in general terms. You'd be surprised how, when you take the spotlight off of your kid and shine it on friends, your kid will be more likely to talk.
3. Anything cool going on?
OK, so I'll be honest, this is more for me and my absent-mindedness than it is for her. Sometimes, I forget about things coming up, and if I ask this question, she usually reminds me. But sometimes, she tells me all about her secret Harry Potter club or a new project at school.
4. Do you need help with anything?
This is my favorite question of all. And I think it might be the most important. My kid knows I'm there for her when she needs it, but we all know how hard it can be to ask for help. So I just do the heavy lifting for her on this one. Most of the time she says no, and sometimes she just says, "Cleaning my room is a lot today. Could you maybe help a little?" (And sometimes, I help, sometimes I say no.) But this question can go a lot deeper than that. Maybe she's having trouble trying to fix a rift between two friends, or she doesn't understand a concept they're working on at school. Asking if she needs help every day gives me the chance to be there for her when I didn't know she needed it.
These four questions keep the conversation flowing between my daughter and I, and they keep me in the loop when it comes to the goings on of all things tween.
This post originally appeared on TotallyTheBomb.com. Follow Jamie on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.