The power of music during times of change
Achieving stability for your child whilst your family takes on a new form can be a challenging task, however with the right tools, it can be achieved. Music can be an extremely powerful tool during times of change. It can provide a platform to help your child process their emotions as well as create a sense of structure and routine within their lives. The beauty is, these benefits can come from learning to play an instrument or from simply listening to music. However, in saying this, playing an instrument will provide more intense benefits.
Music provides a positive emotional outlet
Playing an instrument can promote a positive channel for your child to express themselves. One way to achieve this is by using ‘dynamics’ (i.e. how loud or soft you play a song) and ‘tempos’ (how fast you play). Dynamics and tempos are a musicians go-to tools when it comes to creating emotion in a piece of music. As a music teacher, I encourage children to explore their own emotions using dynamics and tempos. I ask them to ignore how the piece ‘should’ be played, and instead encourage them to play in a way that reflects how they are feeling. Frustration and anger can be resembled with a loud fast sound, and sadness can be expressed with a slow, soft touch. It has been proven in many studies that playing music can help with grieving, but it can also shift the musician into a place of happiness. Music can directly assist your child in helping them process their emotions.
The best part is, this is something that you, as a parent, can try at home. Allow your child to play their instrument loudly, or bang on some pots and pans to channel their frustration, or encourage them to sing or play their instrument quietly if they are needing to grieve and process sadness. If you can see that they are feeling down, you can use music to create a fun game and introduce some lightness back into the environment. For example, they can sing in a silly voice or play a piece quickly or as loud as they can!
Another powerful tool you can use to help your child express their emotion with the help of music is drawing. This is something everyone can do at home - you don’t need an instrument to utilise this tool. Simply put on a piece of music and encourage your child to draw what they are hearing in the music. This tool can be used to help your child vent or it can be used as a distraction technique. Remember, music directly connects to the soul and opens a channel for expression. It is an extremely powerful tool that can help your child process what they are feeling during this time of change.
Music can create a sense of structure and routine
During a separation, achieving stability can seem like an out of reach idea, but it can be done! Learning an instrument can create a much needed sense of structure and routine during this time of change. It provides a constant in your child’s life that won’t change. They know that they will have their lesson, for example, every Tuesday at 4pm. They know they will spend 30 minutes of one-on-one time with their music teacher and that they will work on the songs that they have been practicing in the week. It can be predictable, and it will feel safe.
In addition to this, you can set up a routine for your child around practice to bring that sense of predictability into the home. This can be achieved very easily by setting aside 10 minutes a day (before school is best) to sit with your child while they practice. Sticking to the same time every day is the key to setting the routine. Doing this will create consistency for your child - something I’m sure we can all agree is much needed during times of change.
If learning an instrument is not an option for you at this point in time, you can still create a routine at home using music. Instead of ‘practice time’, you can set aside 10 minutes a day (at the same time each day) to put on a piece of music, lay on the floor together and just reflect. Or for a bit of a mood enhancer, have a 10 minute dance party. The key again is to create a sense of consistency by sticking to the same time every day.
There are countless ways to incorporate music into you child’s life whilst their family life is transitioning. Embrace your creative side and think outside the box when it comes to using music as a venting or distraction tool. You may be pleasantly surprised with what you come up with (and how it can help you through this time, too!)
Kathryn Raats is the founder and director of West Coast Music School based in Perth, Western Australia. Her background in nursing and midwifery allows for a fresh and unique perspective on traditional music education. Kathryn and her team of teachers are extremely passionate about creating individually tailored music programs that empower their students whilst assisting them to embrace and enhance their confidence and self-esteem.