Fearless Questions

Following our Questions to Freedom

You Alright? (A little Encouragement for Parents of Teenagers)

Photo Cred: Ezra Jeffrey

It’s hard to find the parent of a teenager who hasn’t felt the frustration of asking your son or daughter how their day at school was…only to be answered with the dreaded one-word answer:  ‘Fine’.

“Fine, good? or Fine, bad?” we ask. 

“Just…whatever…I don’t know…fine.” 

It’s not that we don’t understand…after all…we often give the same answer to others asking us how we’re doing, but have you ever stopped to ask why you answer ‘fine’?

Perhaps considering our propensity for this response might help us understand ourselves, and our teenagers, a little better.


Think for a second about the last time someone asked you how you were doing and what thought process you went through before responding.

It seems ‘good’ or ‘fine’ is a quick and acceptable answer for most people..because honestly…they may be asking more for sake of cordiality than true interest. 

Depending on where you live, people might say “Hello”, “Hey!” “What’s up?’ Or the sometimes used “Waz Up?!”

Living in the U.K., the most common phrase I heard was “You Alright?”.  As an American, I was just dense enough to mistake it’s colloquial use for a question interested in felt personal response. 

Early on in my time at Oxford University, I was climbing the staircase to a meeting when a course administrator was passing me coming down the stairs and says to me: “You alright?”.  I was strung pretty thin at the time…still reeling from the adjustments of balancing family life and my course work in a new country.  I assumed the strain on my heart was coming through on my face, and this worker was kind enough to stop and let me know that someone could see me and cared.

Well…at least that’s what I thought was the case!


Somewhere around the middle of my second paragraph of thought, really emoting life’s current struggles, I noticed this person uncomfortably looking down, around, and occasionally back to me…but just for quick awkward glances.  Then they did a little ‘lean-step’ past me.  Not actually leaving mid-conversation…that would have ben considered rude…But a candid clue being offered.

Slow to react, I suddenly come to my senses…realize what is happening…and try to tuck my emotions back in as I bumble my way out of the conversation…setting them free to get back to their business.

Funny now…but so awkward at the time.

So why do I say ‘fine’ these days?  Sometimes it’s because I haven’t stopped to think about it and I don’t really know how I feel.  And sometimes…frankly, I want to know if someone is really interested in talking before I choose to share what’s really on my mind.  (Awkward conversations on the stairs scar you in that way 🙂

I wonder if our teenage children are not so different.

Do they know that we are genuinely interested in their thoughts and feelings? 

Do they feel like you want to know them or that you’re just trying to gather information to take control of outcomes on their behalf?

While there are some well-meaning parents simply trying to ‘find-out’ everything they can about their kid in order to play helicopter-patrol, many more are genuinely desiring to learn about what’s going on in the heart, mind and lives of their children.  As in…they want to know, because they care.

If that’s you, I came across a helpful article this week from an educator who created a list of 15 questions to replace asking “How was school today?”. 

I hope you’ll read the questions and consider how it might work for you (you can CLICK HERE to see the questions). 

As the author mentions, How and When we ask the questions makes a big difference…and only you will know best what fits your family.  But please do pay attention to some of the additional suggestions that work well with ALL people:  Don’t interrupt, ask for more, and be sure to validate their feelings. 


This can be a tough one for parents, because we so quickly want to reframe the world for our children…somehow believing we can take away any pain from them in the process.

What can be just as helpful is reinforcing to them that it’s important to experience and identify their emotions.  And for those of you already wondering…No, your child is not going to think that you agreed with every feeling they had that day just because you didn’t offer clarification or a counterpoint to their experience. 

You are actually helping them to feel and be known…and to love them regardless of what happens.

There is no more powerful force than to feel known by someone and still loved.

It’s a tractor beam to our hearts.

All of us.

It’s the way God draws us in.

And it’s the same way your kids will be drawn closer to you.

Hang in there Mom and Dad! 

You’ve got this 🙂

About Jeff Blackburn

Jeff Blackburn is a Spiritual Coach and passionate Truth-Seeker. An alumnus of Oxford University, Jeff is someone who advocates for Freedom and Fullness of Life for All. He believes Jesus offers good news for people everywhere today…not just eternity. Jeff is the Executive Director of Fearless Questions, Inc. and has spent the past 20 years working with people searching for God.

2 Replies

  1. Ali

    Great guidance not only to parents but to anyone working with teenagers and young people. We use this kind of approach at The Art Room and it helps to create a safe space for young people to bring their stuff without feeling threatened or intimidated (or interrogated!). At the end of the day, all people really want is to be listened to…genuinely.

  2. My son is just around the corner (two years) from being a teenager but I feel like we’re already having some challenging teenage-like convos. Even in the past 7 days, it got DEEP.

    Thanks for sharing this piece, and thanks for helping me look at this from another perspective.

    P.S. Happy Thanksgiving 🙂