How To Calm Your Child With Music

If there is one maxim in motherhood, it is: There are no uneventful days!  A new day brings forth a new challenge. 

Today’s test had my toddler, Anna, turning naptime into hyperactivity time!

Parents familiar with the napless toddler will anticipate the looming disaster. 

Wiggling and giggling on the bed, Anna’s cards were laid on the table revealing an endless “crankyorama” that was to come.  Panicking, my mind scrambled for solutions. 

Can I stop the inevitable struggle? 

Of course I could “plug her in” to the TV or laptop, and hope that Elmo or one of his furry friends would provide relief, but I knew all too well that this remedy would be short lived. 

Besides, screen time stimulates too, and the last thing I need is to energize an overtired child. 

Naptime has passed, should I still let her snooze when she winds down?  No, not an option either - it would totally ruin her, my, our night and subsequent schedule. 

Then, a light bulb flickered; once again Kindermusik to the rescue! 

Extended quiet time?  We can do that!  If it only results in a few minutes break, it may be enough to restore my sanity. 

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Every Kindermusik class contains a segment called “quiet time,” which helps children process stimulation received during class. 

Usually, it works like a charm.  Listening to soothing music, Anna sits on my lap as I gently caress her head, massage her feet or simply hug her and rock. 

Did you catch the operative word “Usually”? 

Yes, there are instances when Anna is just not up for it; however, as Sophocles puts it “One must learn by doing the thing; for though you think you know it, you have no certainty, until you try.” 

Given my limited options, I decided to listen to the greybeard. 

I could fib and claim that Anna sat still for half an hour enjoying Brahms or Tchaikovsky’s violin Concerto in D major; but no, I hesitantly admit that it was “The best of Sarah McLachlan” and it was way less than 30 minutes. 

Quietly sitting, almost meditating, we made it through two whole songs without incident.  As she got bored and anxiously tried to escape, I began singing along, which quelled the rebellion for another song and a half. 

In grand total, we clocked 9 minutes 45 seconds of quiet time - a huge success! 

Repeating this process a couple more times throughout the day, with more thoughtful music choices (certain tracks from Kindermusik CDs and a few nursery rhymes were definitely a better fit) did the trick. 

Our day went surprisingly smooth - no crankiness, crabbiness, moodiness, etc., only a happy and moderately active child. Ahhh, just the way I like it, I can almost picture a little cherry on top of her head! 

Later, when doing some research, I found the science behind that magic.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information cites the article “The Effect of Music on the Human Stress Response,” where scientists from the universities of Germany, Switzerland and United States state: “As listening to music has the capacity to initiate a multitude of cognitive processes in the brain, it might be assumed that music also influences stress-related cognitive processes and, as a consequence, physiological responses.”

What an eloquent way to assure my daughter’s physiological and emotional well-being despite the lack of sleep that day! 

Interestingly enough, the author concludes that, “it appears that listening to music has the inherent ability to decrease the psychobiological stress response […] our findings indicate that music listening impacted the psychobiological stress system (in terms of a faster recovery).” 

Furthermore, The American Psychological Association offers an incredible article, “Music as Medicine.” There, scientists underscore music’s medicinal value in a vast range of areas from pain management to Parkinson's, and perhaps even Alzheimer's disease. 

I was particularly fascinated to learn that one recent study on the link between music and stress found that music can help soothe pediatric emergency room patients (JAMA Pediatrics, July, 2013).  Lisa Hartling, PhD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta and lead author of the study contends, "Playing music for kids during painful medical procedures is a simple intervention that can make a big difference." 

I felt the fascination of a child to whom a magician revealed where the rabbit was really hiding all along! 

I always thought music to be magical, now I know it for a scientific fact!  I am sure to keep our music handy at all times, and will definitely try to play Anna’s favorite songs next time we are at the pediatrician office for her vaccinations. 

The next day as I settled in with a more cooperative Anna for her nap, I felt a great deal of gratitude.

First, to my daughter Anna who by presenting me with parental challenges is making me a better, smarter, and more knowledgeable person.

Next, to Sarah Mclachlan.

And last but not least, to Kindermusik for helping me endure those challenges without losing face and positive attitude.

Written by Dorina Nikolaeva, who is learning how to have a few extra calm minutes with her daughter each day. 

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