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A Moment of True attunement and connection

The Magic of Singing with Children

Some of my fondest memories as a kid are of singing silly songs with my dad. He would always change the words to popular songs to fit whatever activity we were doing at the moment. And together we would sometimes make up our own little jingles. There was the red light, green light song, the clean-up song, the teeth brushing song and most famously, the buddies song (We’re buddies, buddies, buddies, we’re buddies all the way, YIPEE!)

Looking back, those little moments weren’t just happy memories in the making, they were powerful moments of connection, attachment, regulation and nurturance. Almost everyone has experienced the power of music at some point: having a cathartic cry to the latest Adele album, hearing a song on the radio that sends you right back to a certain moment in time, or listening to lyrics and feeling like an artist is speaking directly to you and your life.

Music holds the same power in children, and there is some extra magic in making music with children. Nursery rhymes, lullabies and simple songs are a staple in most families, childcare settings and schools. Music is used as an incredible tool to assist in speech development, transitions, teach new information and boost memory. I can still name all 50 states thanks to a song we learned in elementary school, and often when alphabetizing files, I mutter the ABC song to myself.

But these are all just side benefits, because when adults sing with children, what really happens is a moment of true attunement and connection. Singing a little song with a child shows them that you are present, you see them, you hear them, you cherish their voice. Research tells us that singing together creates neural coupling and mirror neurons, meaning two brains begin to activate in the same ways. Breathing and heart rates have also been found to slow down and sync up when singing or creating music together. Singing, drumming or any rhythmic activities are a powerful and research-based way to regulate both adult and child nervous systems. Singing connects us to the present and to each other, while also keeping us in touch with our emotions and bodies.

I would encourage all of us to tap into our inner child (and inner star) and sing more with the children we are around. Push away any embarrassment: the quality of your singing voice plays no part in the incredible benefits of singing together. Next time you are in the car, turn up the radio and sing together with your kids. Or narrate what you are doing by singing a silly song. Invite your child to choose a song to sing as you put shoes on, or before bed. Each of these moments takes about 30-60 seconds but creates a lifetime of memories and connections.

By Bea Burchill, LSCSW, RPT – Mental Health Specialist