As parents, we are always looking for ways we can connect with our kids. One of the most powerful is through a morning and end-of-day routine that allows our kids to share how they feel, get grounded for the day, share gratitude, and wind down for the evening.
Fostering a strong connection with your kid allows you to tune in to how they’re feeling and to offer support when they need it. It lets them know they matter and are loved, and builds their self-esteem and confidence. It takes as little as 5 minutes each day to connect with your kid, and build that parent-kid relationship that says, “you get me.”
Check-In/Check-Out can become a daily routine that builds important habits like reflection, self-awareness, empathy, and a secure attachment or bond. The more we give, the more we get, and this is a gift we can give each other.
Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff, Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard calls the parent-child connection “one of the most essential experiences in shaping the architecture of the developing brain.” This relationship is so powerful that it can be a protective buffer against stress and uncertainty for our kid’s developing brains.
Additionally, Check-In/Check-out creates a sense of belonging. We’re built to make social connections. Research shows that people who feel like they belong enjoy greater self-esteem, have fewer illnesses, and live longer lives.
Most notably, Check-In/Check-Out:
- fosters connection,
- encourages self-awareness,
- nurtures empathy,
- promotes active listening, and
- shows a kid they matter
Check-In with these 4 Steps:
- Share what you’re feeling. Go around the circle and have each group member choose 3 adjectives that describe how they are feeling. As a listener, be curious about what is behind these 3 adjectives. Naming emotions can be hard, but there are handy tools that make it easier to go deeper than “happy” and “sad.” Check out the “My Feelings” poster from Generation Mindful or the “Mood Meter” from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.
- Talk about those emotions. Go back around the circle, letting each person talk for 1–2 minutes about the adjectives they named and why they chose those emotions. Everyone should listen carefully and think about what might be causing the other person’s feelings.
- Acknowledge the feelings of others. Acknowledge where the group is emotionally. Do a round of “I noticed…,” “I wonder…,” or “I feel…” sentence starters to wrap up. For example, “I noticed we’re all feeling stressed today,” or “I wonder if there are ways we could calm our stress. How about….”
- Say “I’m in!” At the end of the Check-In, everyone says “I’m in!” to signify that they are present and activated for the day to come!
Check-Out with these 3 steps:
- Show gratitude. Each group member shares something they are grateful for, whether it actually happened during the day or it’s just something that’s top-of-mind.
- Share takeaways. Everyone shares one takeaway from the day.
- Say “I’m out!” At the end of the Check-Out, everyone says “I’m out!” to provide a calming marker that the day of work, learning, and growth is done.
The phrases, “I’m in” and “I’m out” signify togetherness and belonging. They’re the rallying call that confirms the connection with each member of the family who has just been seen and heard. You’re a team who cares about each other going through life together.
- Circle up: Sitting in a circle promotes unity.
- Ask for a volunteer: The first to share should be ready, willing, and able.
- Go deep: You’re connecting on a deep emotional level. Encourage vulnerability and honesty.
- Model it: Your willingness to share openly and honestly will encourage others in the circle to do the same.
- Keep it short: Strive for two minutes per person, but don’t use a timer. You don’t want anyone to feel like they’re being cut off when they’re telling you how they’re feeling.
- keep track of how the family is doing,
- remember past challenges and successes, and
- reflect on gratitude