Using music to help children cope with stress (Museum Musings – MENTAL: Colours of Well-being)
We are almost into the second quarter of 2023! How are you doing?
I hope you and your child(ren) are settled in to new routines and experiences, especially for children transitioning from kindergarten into primary school! It’s a huge leap for the little ones, who need to: use money to buy food at the canteen before learning how to count money; make new friends; be responsible for a whole lot more things (school books, belongings, and homework!); learn so many more new subjects.
It can be overwhelming for some children, especially those who have not attended any form of school before primary school. According to Fred Cordeiro, Executive Director at Clarity Singapore, writing for the government initiative My Mental Health, there are some warning signs to recognise stress your child may be facing:
- Difficulty falling asleep, or staying awake, changes in sleep patterns, and nightmares
- Return of behaviours that your child had grown out of, such as bed-wetting
- Increased intensity, frequency, and duration of mood swings
- Aggressive behaviours and tantrums
- Changes in eating habits, such as comfort eating, or a lack of appetite in response to stressful situations
- Pain: Headaches, vomiting, stomachaches, and cramps (may indicate emotional stress)
- Excessive worrying that is keeping your child up at night. Insignificant things also seem to cause unnecessary anxiety
- Sudden changes in behaviours, such as clinginess, and crying (could mean your child is struggling with stress)
- Trouble concentrating: Over-thinking, forgetting simple instructions, experiencing difficulties in completing ordinary tasks, and loss of interest in school work
- Withdrawal from activities your child used to enjoy, and pushing away friends and family
As parents, the best way we can support our children is to be there and offer a listening ear. We can also help them to manage their stress. Here are Fred’s tips:
- Determine if it is a problem-focused or emotion-focused problem
- Problem-focused problem: relates to a current problem that needs to be managed by the child. Parents can help by exploring strategies to remove or reduce the stressor(s) through problem-solving techniques, time-management skills, or improving social support
- Emotion-focused problem: Usually beyond the child’s control. Helpful stress management strategies include reducing negative emotional responses (such as embarrassment, fear, anxiety, and frustration), and mindfulness activities
- If symptoms persist, seek professional help. Appropriate therapeutic interventions can be applied to mitigate depression when help is sought early. Your child can reach out to the Tinkle Friend Helpline at 1800 274 4788.
Music has the power to impact one both physically and mentally. Music is not only for entertainment; it can also help boost your overall well-being: from reducing stress, to improving cognitive performance, and encouraging and inspiring creativity.
Every time I feel anxious or stressed, I plug in my earphones and listen to a music playlist I curate for these situations. Until our children learn effective coping strategies, why not use music to help them self-soothe? You can download their favourite songs into their mobile phones, or create a music playlist on an accessible platform which they can turn to when they need it. Here is a list of self-love and self-empowering songs for children of all ages and abilities, supported and created by BenAnna Band, an inclusive children’s band, available on Spotify.
Playing music for pleasure can also have a soothing effect! According to research, playing instruments can help musicians—regardless of skill level—lower their heart rates and blood pressure, reduce stress levels, lower anxiety, and deter depression. Playing an instrument can also increase your problem-solving abilities, besides improving your overall mental capacity. Playing an instrument can help bring you to a state of “flow”. It sounds like a prescription I would like to have!
If your child is not already learning an instrument, why not let him/her learn one?
Bloom School of Music & Arts offers a variety of instruments to learn (piano, drum, violin, viola, cello, guitar, and ukulele)! Send us an Online Enquiry, register for a trial/assessment, or come on down to our studio to have a chat with us!
I hope this post has been helpful for you, and I wish you and your children lots more precious moments as you navigate the year together, and be pillars of support for each other.
Keep each other in check, and watch out for each other 💗
Read on for my experience at the MENTAL: Colours of Well-being exhibition, that was held at the ArtScience Museum.
The MENTAL: Colours of Well-being exhibition was held at the ArtScience Museum from 3 September 2022 to 26 February 2023.
MENTAL features 24 interactive exhibits, art projects, and large-scale installations by international artists, makers, scientists, and designers. MENTAL celebrates differences, and complexities, and represents the idea that everyone’s mental health journey is unique, and it is a welcoming set-up inviting one to confront societal bias and stereotypes around mental health, and embark on an intimate and personal journey that explores the different ways of being, surviving, and making connections, that have become of increasing importance to us all. MENTAL encourages one to reflect upon, question, and empathise with what it means to be a human in the 21st century.
The works featured in this exhibition take on serious topics in an accessible way, and was grouped into 4 broad themes—Connection, Exploration, Expression, and Reflection.
Let us explore some of my favourite exhibits!
Just as you step into the entrance of the exhibit, you see this in your face. These are questions we tend to ask our loved ones, and our Little Ones, but how often have we asked ourselves these questions, to check-in with ourselves during the busy-ness of our lives?
Can music be used to treat your mental health? This is a very interesting live experiment by Sophia Charuhas, on the effects of sound on bacterial growth in the human body. In this ‘bacterial treatment room’, two agar plates populated with microbiome samples listen to different sounds, and another agar plate listens to nothing at all (this is the control). Does different music really change their growth? Speculation on recent research suggests that we may one day improve mental health by encouraging the growth of certain bacteria in our bodies combined with the gut-brain connection.
For Wednesday Kim, socialising with people in the real world is scary. She finds comfort and solace in the virtual space, and she shows you her hectic headspace in this multi-video installation. Can technology make us better human beings?
I love cats, so, seeing this cutie absolutely made my day. Did you know there are benefits to being a cat lover, and that cats can help make our lives happier and healthier?
Rawcus is a critically-acclaimed long-term ensemble of 14 performers with diverse minds, bodies, and imaginations. This installation is informed by the lived experiences of Rawcus’ members who experience anxiety and sensory overload.
With its large tactile, fabric tent-like structure, this participatory installation, titled Portal (2021), invites you to touch and feel the different soft and approachable objects, and discover
1) how sensory play can support a sense of well-being, and
2) through tactile play, what activates your senses, and what relaxes you.
This was a safe and calming space for me to escape into the imaginary! How do you self-regulate your emotions?
In this pink cage, a weather balloon slowly builds up pressure, and it starts stretching, pulling and pushing at the confines of its cage. When an explosion seems imminent, the balloon slowly deflates.
This mixed-media installation by Zhou Xiaohu reminds me a little of bubblegum; you would blow the bubblegum as large as you could, and you would anticipate it popping, but you never knew when it was going to happen!
Even in Fear mimics what anxiety can feel like, the feelings of uneasiness and pressure hidden just beneath the surface of everyday life. Eventually, when the balloon can no longer withstand the repeated pressure due to the constant inflation and deflation, do you think it will burst? Can you take the pressure?
Mental: Colours of Well-being has been a very though-provoking exhibition to visit because it hits me in all the right spots. It questions my capabilities, but also encourages me to be curious.
Let me leave you with a final piece of validation:
You know that it’s okay to feel what you are feeling, right? Your feelings are unique and personal.