Luke Bryan says his time working as a judge on American Idol has given him a brand-new perspective on parenting. The 43-year-old country star says he's found himself forming a deeper bond with the TV singing competition's contestants than expected.

“I didn’t realize that when I signed up for this that I would lay in bed at night wondering about these kids and praying for their well-being,” Bryan recently told People. The singer and his wife Caroline are the parents of two sons, 9-year-old Tatum Christopher and 11-year-old Thomas Boyer, and in 2014, the Bryans also became the caretakers of his nephew and two nieces, Jordan, Kris and Til, after the death of Bryan's sister and, later, her husband.

“Being the fatherly figure, I’ve learned that there are many struggles kids are going through these days,” Bryan explains. "It’s taught me that if I see some of these things in my kids, it’s a real thing.”

Many American Idol contestants have shared their own stories of personal struggles with Bryan during their time on the show. Those issues, along with the ongoing stress of the sometimes-grueling competition, have made him more aware of what the younger generation is going through on a daily basis.

“I have my way I raise my kids, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to have mental health problems," he notes. "This show has taught me a broader view of what kids are dealing with in society. I just relish the opportunity to mentor these kids and mentor them through this crazy journey.”

Fans can see Bryan mentor a whole new set of artists when Season 18 of American Idol debuts on Sunday (Feb. 16) on ABC.

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