As moms and dads we all have weaknesses and imperfections. One of the best ways to identify points where we need improvement is to check in with the people on the receiving end of our parenting efforts – our kids.

Getting feedback is a great way to become a better parent, especially since each of us has blind spots that keep us from seeing things in ourselves we need to work on.

As a therapist, I’ve found that some moms and dads feel threatened at the idea of receiving input from their kids. For them, receiving the opinions of others evokes negative memories and feelings. Other parents may feel that getting feedback from children brings their authority into question. Yet other parents say their children’s responses would be welcomed and helpful. For these individuals, getting feedback has positive associations – not to mention, the new, creative opportunity for Positive Family Communication (Asset #2) this activity could provide.

Some families may not be emotionally and relationally healthy enough for an open and honest check-in. But when it can be done in a healthy way, a family check-in is well worth it.

A check-in involves asking your kids some simple questions about how you’re doing, and whether there is anything getting in the way of your connection or relationship with your children.

Now, if you ask your kids, “How am I doing as a dad/mom?” chances are you’ll hear “fine” (it’s sort of like “How was your day?” and it’s likely to get the same response). Having a list of specific check-in questions to guide conversation is very useful.

“What’s it like to be with me?” is a great question to begin with. This gives you a chance to see “you” from your children’s perspective.

Additional questions I’ve taught families over the years in my private practice include:

  • What has been going well, and not going well, for you this past week/month?
  • What has been going well, and not going well, for us as a family this past week/month?
  • What do you need from me to make things better in our home this week/month?
  • On a scale of 1–10, with 10 being the best I have ever done as a mom/dad, how have I been doing the last few weeks?
  • Have I been listening and understanding you well?
  • Have I been too busy for connection? Do you wish we had more time together? Are family rules, boundaries, and limits clear? Are any of them confusing? Is there anything you’re upset about that we have not resolved? What do you wish I did more of that would help our relationship?

Another option is to use the following list of five behaviors of healthy, thriving families to help you develop your own check-in questions. These behaviors include:

  • Spending time together
  • Sharing laughter and playfulness
  • Eating meals together
  • Engaging in conversation

Research shows that each of these strengthens the relational health and connectedness of families. Be creative in developing your own set of questions. And don’t be afraid of constructive feedback.

Being intentional and setting positive Family Boundaries (Asset #11) and goals are important parts of being a successful parent, and family check-ins tick both of these boxes. Make them a part of your monthly, quarterly, or annual routine.