In that fiery place under the earth, I’m quite sure Alvin and the Chipmunks music would be blaring 24-7. If it ever comes on (usually by accident), you will find me under a thick, muffling sort of blanket. Just because Alvin, Elmo, or the Frozen soundtrack make me want to stuff teddy bears in my ears doesn’t mean I can’t love some other tunes.
Here are 5 ways music mindfulness can benefit families.
It can remind you of different parts of yourself or your life
You may be stuck in a sea of 1,000 Legos, busy replacing batteries on the Speak & Spell, helping with trigonometry homework, or nuking another batch of chicken nuggets. While parenting has its great joys, parts of it may be slower than the hipper life you once held dear. Playing certain tunes can mentally transport you back to your more adventurous days, reminding you of the parts of your personality that transcend Curious George and toddler tooth brushing. Music helps you be in the moment while simultaneously reminding yourself of almost-forgotten aspects of your soul. You might play that Grateful Dead track that reminds you of the drive up the Al-Can Highway to Anchorage, drumming that brings back memories of the drum circle you used to frequently join in on, the country tune you once heard in an old line-dancing barn, that theme song from college football games, or a Spanish salsa you danced to on that semester in Barcelona.
It can help you recover a good mood
There’s something amazing about the message embedded in a song – the music notes carry the words farther and deeper than if they had been scribbled on a post it on your fridge. Songs make an impact, especially if you’ve screwed up big time or are beating yourself up (again). If you are having the kind of day where you simply cannot find two socks that match or are in such a rush that you wash your hair with lotion instead of shampoo, then these type of favorites will help you feel the universality to messing up and moving on: Some Days Are Better Than Others (U2), Shake it Off (Taylor Swift), or Complicated (Poi Dog Pondering).
“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances. ”
― Maya Angelou
It can calm down your house
Playing quiet gentle music can help your family calm down when things feel chaotic. You might choose lullabies for bedtime, gentle flute music for the pre-dinner (un)happy hour, or sounds of nature for when the kids are riled up. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it can also bring down your heart rate and minimize the physical effects of stress. Some parents like to play the same calming song every evening as a safe, comforting ritual to signal bedtime and help kids wind down.
It can ignite dance parties
There’s so much time where parents have to hush, chill, and usher their kids from here to there. Purposely playing joyful dance music, busting the move together, shaking instruments, and being crazy and silly gives space for the uninhibited self-expression that personifies childhood. It lets your own inner child come out. It gives you time to bond with your kid without any of the usual nags getting in the way. O.K., children, you’re not late. You don’t have to be quiet. You don’t have to stand in line. You don’t have to do what I do. You don’t have to listen. You don’t have to share. You don’t have to eat your vegetables. Just feel the music and do your thing and I’ll do my thing and maybe we’ll catch each other’s smiles on the notes sailing around our heads like bubbles.
It can help you tune into how you are feeling
Asking the question “What music is right for today?” naturally makes you do a quick check-in about how you and everyone else in the family are feeling. You might do a quick body scan and note – are you tired, restless, energetic, excited, sad? You might take 10 seconds and close your eyes and ask, “How am I doing? What kind of music do I need right now?”
It can help your kids participate and contribute to the family
You might give children an old tape player, CD player, or iPod and show them how to work it. For multiple kids, you could have a rotating “DJ of the day” – on their day they get to play their own favorite music for 20 minutes (and learn tolerance when it’s not their turn). There’s nothing like watching a kid dance to music she has chosen herself!
Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD is a counselor for individuals and couples in Chicago’s western suburbs. (www.erinleyba.com) Read more about joyful parenting on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/erinleybaphd/?pnref=lhc