Life has changed drastically for many young children in NZ and around the world this year. How can we use music to support their understanding of this and use music therapy approaches to make them feel heard and safe?
1. The most important thing we can give children is ourselves and a deep connection to us even in times of stress.
Sit with them, play hand clapping games, sing facing them, do row row row, teach more complex hand clapping games to older children, show them a scale on the piano, do fingers rhymes and sing the lullabies you used when they were babies.
Music is a powerful connector, and one we should all take advantage of right now.
2. A child who usually attends an early learning centre will wonder what has happened to this part of their expected routine.
Make up little songs about this to support their understanding of preschool being closed – then it will be open again. Include the names of their teachers and friends and sing about the little routines that anchor them (putting bags away, sitting on the mat, Kai time etc).
Acknowledging what WAS their routine and how vastly it has changed helps them make sense of it, while also keeping in mind they need to know it will be the same again one day and lots of other things in their life remain the same.
3. A child who is expressing big emotions often responds well to opportunities to get that out.
Use a drum (or bucket!) to make a family band and let them lead the tempo, how loud it is and how long it goes for. Give them wooden spoons as beaters and sing some favourite songs – or make up songs about their new normal. Simple melodies and repetitive lines are all they need to be.
4. If your child is struggling with missing people, making up songs about special people can help. It could include all the things you will do when you see them again.
We have been using the tune “Skip to my Lou” to list people and little activities they miss such as stories with Nana, the sandpit at preschool and certain playgrounds.
5. Using background music can certainly help shift a tricky atmosphere when done with care.
If your child’s overwhelmed and tired, fast and loud music isn’t likely to help. But also – if they are angry or frustrated very calming music can feel out of sync.
Sometimes they need to listen to something loud and then work down to a calm track. Ask what they’d like. Try a few different Spotify playlists or let them help choose. Try calming music in the evenings or happy music in the mornings and ask if they want something different.
6. Sing the songs from preschool at home, practise waiata, ask your teachers for their routine songs if you aren’t sure.