My 5 year-old son and I were driving in the car last week listening to my newest, favorite CD when his small voice came from the back seat. "Mommy, sometimes I need to learn to let things go."
My head could not whip around for the safety of our travel, but I gave a quizzical look into the rear-view mirror. He informed me that the song that we were listening to was talking about "letting things go" and moving on. As I tuned back in, I realized he was completely correct. The singer was telling the story of a difficult time he had been through and the need to let some of the past go to move onto the future.
You can imagine my surprise when I heard my son utter those words from the back seat. I know why he said them. I may have told him to let things go a time or two. Or three. But in that moment I was reminded of the power of music, an incredibly therapeutic tool.
I remember reading a story of music therapy used with Alzheimer patients. Therapists would talk with the patient's family to find out what kind of music they listened to in their youth, and make a compilation of their favorite musicians and songs for their patients. The response was incredible. Otherwise detached from reality, these patients showed animation and joy. They connected with the music instantly, remembering lyrics they may not have heard for years.
Music, it is powerful!
I find that, of the clients I work with, adolescents are those most connected to music. They sing it, write it and play it. And I have seen amazing emotions expressed through their music. Many times parents of teenagers will come in complaining about the music their kids are listening to.
One of the things I repeatedly tell parents is that their children are connecting with certain music for a reason. If they are listening to angry lyrics, there is a reason. Asking them not to listen to those lyrics is not going to change the reason for their connection.
Music helps with self-expression. If a child is feeling angry or confused, it is a lot easier to sing a song lyric that aligns with those feelings rather than openly express those emotions as their own. For now. In time they will be able to better express themselves, likely because of their connection to music. It is a good thing. I also remind parents what THEY used to listen to against their parents' wishes. Ahem … The Beatles, The Doors … Elvis!
It is the same tune, in a different time.
Music can help kids with anxiety as well. Many kids who worry have difficult going to sleep at night. Mozart can help that. There are CDs of classical bedtime music for young kids intended for just this purpose.
In addition, there are relaxation CDs that kids can listen to just before be time that guide them through a process of calming down their body. This is also a great tool to use on the car ride to school or before an important sporting event for the kids who get worked up about performing.
Recently I found a CD at the library about songs that build character through topics such as; how to persevere through difficulties, feeling proud, and being happy with yourself. And at Thanksgiving, we have compiled an entire CD of songs that discuss being thankful. There are songs for everything and they can be incredibly helpful.
Recently a friend of mine told a story of her 4-year-old daughter who has struggled recently. My friend was listening to "Beautiful Flower" by India Arie which tells the story of a girl who has been in the darkness and moving toward the light, and all that she can achieve is she believes in herself. Her daughter asked "Mom are they singing about me?" Mom was floored and said "Yes, they are". Music is powerful and kids get it. They connect with it.
I encourage my clients and every parent to use music as much as you can … if you have worriers or not. It can name challenges or certain problems your children are dealing with and help them to articulate those feelings.
And remember, music can help you too. Parents are very stressed and are constantly juggling. Reconnect with the music that brings you peace and comfort - or calls to mind a happy time - or find some new music to do so.
I recently bought John Mayer's newest CD. I listen to it nonstop, for my own reasons. What music are you listening to these days that helps calm you and bring you peace? Turn it up and hit repeat!
Beverly Carr is a licensed clinical social worker based in Norwich. You can reach her via http://beverlycarr.vpweb.com/.