Conversation Starters: 20 Questions to Ask Your Parents


We care for our parents every day, in the most intimate of ways. But how well do we really know them? Our parents are the most familiar people in the world but also, sometimes, the most mysterious. Who are they as a person? What were they like when they were growing up? What experiences most impacted their lives? What were their hopes and dreams and regrets?

As adults, so many of us don't ask enough about our parents. Yet there's no better way to become closer to a person, even if you've known her all your life. has gathered a list of questions that our elder care experts and editors would most like to ask their own parents. Try them out for yourself. You might gain a new perspective on your parents and learn something new about yourself.

Interview Questions for Elders

  1. In what ways do you think I'm like you? And not like you?
  2. Who is the person who influenced your life the most?
  3. Do you have a lost love?
  4. Which new technology have you found most helpful in your life? Which do you find to be the most annoying?
  5. Is there anything you have always wanted to tell me but never have?
  6. Is there anything you regret not having asked your parents?
  7. Do you wish anything had been different between us, or would you still like to change something?
  8. What was the happiest moment of your life?
  9. What are you most proud of?
  10. How did your experience in the military mold you as a person?
  11. What are the most important lessons you've learned in life?
  12. What is your earliest memory?
  13. Did you receive an allowance as a child? How much? Did you save your money or spend it?
  14. Who were your friends when you were growing up?
  15. What was your favorite thing to do for fun (movies, beach, etc.)?
  16. What was school like for you as a child? What were your best and worst subjects?
  17. What school activities and sports did you participate in?
  18. Do you remember any fads from your youth? Popular hairstyles? Clothing?
  19. What world events had the most impact on you?
  20. How would you like to be remembered?
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I am feeling so sorry that I did not connect with my dad when he was alive. I have just found out in the last 2 years that his tour of duty during WW2 was so tramatic for him. He fought with the 36th division and saw so many of his army buddies killed. He never spoke of this to anyone in our family. How I would love to talk to him about his dreams, his thoughts, and thank him for being such a hard worker.
To Give a Hug - You are missing the point. Although we spent the first 20 years or so living with our parents, in most cases we really do not know that much about them as a person. Our parents were busy being parents not friends so we were not the ones with whom they shared this information. I believe it is really important to know who are parents are as individuals. What unusual experiences shaped their lives? What dreams did they have as young adults? Did they fullfill those dreams or do they have regrets? This is an opportunity to really know the people who raised us and it is a real opportunity for our parents to leave their children and grandchildren a legacy of a life lived, challenges faced, dreams fullfilled, and wisdom gathered. Fantastic article.
If your parent came from a severely dysfunctional family, skip the "20 questions" routine.

My mom was raised in a multi-generational household with miserable grandparents, a selfish neglectful mother, and aunts & uncles ranging from alcoholic to sadist to pedophile to town whore. And the neighbors weren't much better.

Mom unburdened herself to me plenty over the years. Sad and distressing. No need for a re-hash as a final memory.

The last couple of mom's mental compromises increased....I hope that mom's "brain fuzz" blocked some of her painful memories.