Thanksgiving dinner conversation starters to inspire gratitude with your teen and family

Do you feel that stress overtakes gratitude when you think about planning for Thanksgiving?


A recent survey of 2,000 Americans who celebrate Thanksgiving about their plans for the upcoming feast found that 53% think the holiday will be twice as stressful due to COVID-19. In addition to planning an elaborate meal, the possibility of tension in family conversations can be a source of holiday anxiety.


After excessively complimenting the delicious food in front of you and going around the table stating what you are thankful for, families may be at a loss for what to talk about. This is when the topics you want to avoid may arise, such as politics, or teens may feel left out of the conversation if they are not inclined to speak up.


Teens may also feel anxious about talking with extended family as they are likely to ask about grades, relationships, and plans for the future. Teens may also not know how to bridge to the things they are truly excited to find out about their extended family members. Adults in the family may not know what their teen relatives are truly interested in, which is what leads them to ask these questions.


With social distancing in effect, many families may opt out of an in-person gathering. Even when virtual, Thanksgiving presents a unique opportunity for relatives of all generations to bond through meaningful discussions.


Coming into Thanksgiving with conversation starters in mind can help families avoid tension and foster an insightful conversation that helps the family learn new things about one another. From sharing special family memories, wisdom, and gratitude, conversation starters will also help teens connect with elder family members. Making sure everyone has a chance to voice their answers will ensure all family members feel included and valued.


Whether you are bringing extended family together around the dinner table or over a Zoom call this Thanksgiving, these conversation starters can help the entire family connect and feel grateful for time together.



1. “What is your favorite family tradition during the holidays and why?”

This is an open-ended way to get the family to share what they look forward to the most during the holidays. Focusing on the most memorable aspects of the holiday season will foster a positive and open environment. Sharing memories of holidays in the past can bring about feelings of gratitude for time spent together. It also can be a reminder of a tradition someone enjoyed in the past that the family can incorporate it this holiday season or do this activity together again sometime in the future.


2. “If you could sit down with your teenage self, what would you tell them?”

This is a unique way for family members to share what they were like as a teen. What were their interests and what challenges did they face? Perhaps your teen can relate, and your family members have wisdom to share.


3. “What are you an expert on, and how did you become one?”

Someone in your family may have experience in a topic or skill another member is interested in. This is a great opportunity for them to share their knowledge about something they are passionate about. For teens with a unique interest, whether this is a sport, school subject, career area, or magic trick, this is a great way for them to learn more from a family member who enjoys teaching this topic.


4. “What new—and unexpected—hobby have you started during quarantine?”

This year has been full of changes—one of which may include celebrating Thanksgiving over Zoom. So, how have your family members changed during quarantine? What new things have they tried? Would they recommend it or not?


5. “What act of kindness has had the greatest impact on your life?”

It can be difficult to introduce gratitude practices to teens in a way they find meaningful. This is because at this stage of development, teens’ main goal is to get parents to recognize their independence. Teens can reap the benefits of gratitude that inspire happiness through altruism, or recognizing acts of kindness. Through this prompt, teens can reflect on either a kind act they appreciated or a way they helped someone else recently. Hearing the kindness their family members did or appreciated can inspire them to continue paying the kindness forward.


After dinner: plan a fun family activity

Planning a fun activity that involves the whole family can be a great way to connect and continue the conversation. This could be getting a craft like making holiday cards or ornaments, playing a card, board, or trivia game that suits a large group, watching a movie, or even cooking or baking dessert together.


Read here for more family dinner conversation starters to help you connect with your teen on a daily basis. For more ways to help your teen and family connect during the holidays and beyond, Cherish offersfree resources (from coaching to curated parent community groups) for parents with teens.Click here to sign up for our free resources!