After school shopping, organizing supplies, and getting signed up for Fall activities, it’s time to do a heart check with our kids.

It’s been way too long since we had any sense of “normalcy.” School rhythms might feel foreign to some of us as we wonder what it will be like to send our kids back to school for a whole day. For others, you might be grieving the gift of time you had with your kiddos despite a very tragic world pandemic.

As you reset this year and try to regain what was lost in months past, consider leaning into your relationships with your kids and having intentional conversations.

By no means make this weird! You know the moments.

Try to keep this cool while driving in a car or just before tuck-ins and the lights are low. Kids respond better when they are not cornered by a desperate parent trying to go deep (wink).

An intention check in

Though we have all had a lot of time with our child(ren) this year, it might be fair to say that quality time is not the same as quantity time. So first step, let’s check in on how each of our kids is feeling about their place in our families and with us, as their parents.

Based on their innate wirings, age, and level of awareness, each child will respond with either a run-on sentence of things they have been holding against you for some time or a blank stare resembling a deer in headlights. Or somewhere in between.

In any case, receive their words (and tone) with great grace, care, and as little defensiveness as you can muster up!

This is the gold of your relationship.

Children need to have a place and a time to influence their world, and this is giving them permission to use their voice and develop deeper trust with you.

4 areas to consider when engaging your kids

  1. Impact

How am I impacting you? What do you think, feel, or experience when I am around you?

  1. Parent-relationship

Is there anything you wish I could change about our relationship?  Do you want more from me this school year?

  1. Friend-relationships

It’s important to know how your child is feeling and what thoughts might be rolling around in their heart and mind. Part of knowing their world is knowing who they are drawn to as friends.

This will help you foster these friendships and make time to keep them in view as everyone adjusts back to school, teachers, homework, activities, and expectations. Whether your children are five or fifteen years old, knowing who they call “friend” gives you insight into their safest places and an idea of where to direct them when they feel alone or on the outside.

Maybe ask it this way, “Who are your favorite people in the world?”

  1. Emotions

It’s good to take an emotional temperature of how your child is feeling about their world. You might be surprised, but many children are wrestling with depression and anxiety after so much unrest, change, and unknowns.

Most kids are unable to name their emotions immediately, but when parents can mirror back what they think they see or hear with tentative language (you seem sad), it helps children and teens put words to their inner life. They feel connected and no longer alone in changing emotions that are normal to all children.

Not feeling alone in the big emotions is half the battle! Ask them, “What are you most excited about with school starting?” and “What are you most nervous about with school starting?”

Helping them feel heard

By simply taking time to ask these questions (in the most nonchalant ways), your child now feels a shift in your relationship. You pursued them and gave them permission to tell you what they really think and feel.

Remember, mom and dad, this is not a time to lecture, give your opinion, or react. Simply receive their words and summarize what you heard.

They will feel heard. Tell them you will take all they shared to heart and get back to them with some ideas if any changes are needed.

As you settle into all the various expectations for the fall, remember that children of all ages need relationship with you, their parents, no matter how amazing their teachers, youth leaders, or coaches are in the community.

Parents (though not perfect) are the ones who make the greatest impact in a child’s life. When they grow old, it is a parent’s voice that rings true in their head (for better or for worse).

Let’s be parents that pursue our kids and help them know what it means to be loved and then love others well.

You got this!


Written By Jeff and Terra Mattson

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About the Authors

After two decades working in leadership and trauma-informed therapy, Jeff Mattson (MA ORL) and Terra Mattson (MA LPC, LMFT) are bridging the gap between Biblical, clinical, and relational wisdom to help leaders live with integrity in the home, work, and community. As the co-hosts of the Living Wholehearted Podcast in the Christian Parenting Podcast Network, Jeff and Terra have skin in the game as they raise their two daughters just outside Portland, OR on five acres of old growth woods. There is never a dull moment in the Mattson home!




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Guest Contributor