Games for Teaching Conversation Skills to Teens

By Erica Loop
Talking to your teen can help her build communication skills.
Talking to your teen can help her build communication skills.

While your teen certainly out-paces a toddler when it comes to keeping up in a conversation, she may still need some help refining her communication skills. Games for teaching conversation skills to teens can help kids to talk in a more tactful manner, practice active listening and build a more adult-like method of communication.

Role Modeling

Instead of simply throwing your teen into a more sophisticated type of adult conversation, show him what to do with a role modeling game. Engage another adult in a conversation -- making sure to take turns talking and listening -- keep an appropriate amount of eye contact and act in a respectful way when the other person expresses an opinion. As your teen watches you modeling a conversation, he can take note of how you are working as an effective communicator. Make the activity more interesting for your teen and ask him to pick a conversation topic for you to model. Have him choose a subject that interests him -- such as a local sporting event -- or encourage him to pick a theme such as friendly conversations or conflict-resolution scenarios.

Conversation Tag

Although a true conversation doesn't really play out like a "Tag, your it!" game, you can use this model to teach teens about an appropriate amount of give and take during communication times. Start the conversation with an opening statement and tag your teen lightly when it's her turn to talk. After she finishes, she can tag you, giving you back the chance to speak. Continue in this manner until the conversation winds down. Turn this into an active or physical game by running around the backyard, tagging and talking. The tag format of this games gives your teen the chance to better understand the back and forth banter of most conversations.

Dress Rehearsal

Treat your teen to a talking game that mimics what he would do during a dress rehearsal for a school play. This activity is especially helpful before a special event such as a school dance or family reunion. Pretend you are actually at the event and act out an entire conversation. This type of role playing game can also prove helpful when your teen is struggling with peer pressure issues. For example, pretend that you are another teen who is pressuring your child to drink alcohol at a party. Have your teen tell you exactly what he would say, and then continue on -- acting as the peer -- making the conversation play out completely.

Open-Ended Questions

Using open-ended questions isn't just an activity to try with your younger child who is just learning how to communicate. The pediatric pros at the KidsHealth website suggest that parents use lines of questioning that don't simply end with a "yes" or "no" answer to facilitate a deep type of conversation. Tie this conversation activity to an event or outing to make it more topical. For example, visit the art museum with your teen and ask her questions such as, "What do you think of the way that this artist used colors?" instead of simply saying, "Do you like this?" Make the game more playful and have your teen start to question you as well. If she forgets how to ask an open-ended question and gives you a yes-no version, give her a double question penalty and make her ask two more.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.