It isn’t easy being a kid today
Kids today face a lot of challenges that previous generations didn’t face. More and more we hear about situations where a child has committed suicide as a result of bullying. This bullying is no longer limited to the schoolyard, and now takes place both in person and online. While your child may not be on the verge of suicide, the truth of the matter is that children are bombarded with external messages telling them who they “should be.” These messages can have an adverse effect on their sense of well-being.
When did it get this hard to be a kid?
Don’t be hard on yourself as a parent. The truth of the matter is that it’s hard to be a parent to a growing, developing human being in the 21st century because it’s hard to be a human being growing and developing in the 21st century. Kids today are having to navigate new terrain without having many life experiences to draw from. Add to this that their prefrontal cortex, essential for making healthy and informed decisions, is still developing. It can make it just as hard for you as the parent or caregiver of a child or teen who is struggling in some way. You want to help them, but this is all new to you, too. You don’t know what they need and they don’t want to (or may be unable to) tell you.
Your child may be trying to:
Figure Out How to Deal with Anxiety and Depression
Worries that seem small to adults can feel huge to kids. There is an increased number of kids who are struggling with anxiety and depression.
Such feelings may due to their own internal questioning about who they are and who they want to be. As well, some kids are recognizing themselves as transgendered or they may be grappling with their sexual orientation. These kinds of realizations can be incredibly stressful, and even frightening, to someone living in a society that may not be accepting of those who are LGBTQ.
Still, for other kids the experience of anxiety or depression can be due to the real or perceived pressures they experience in having to be “perfect.” They hold such high standards for themselves and expect to be able to do everything perfectly the first time they try doing it. If they’re not successful right away, they develop a sense of “worthlessness” or think that they’re “stupid.”
Some kids may be able to cope with these feelings in a healthy way, while others may not. Those who have a difficult time managing such strong feelings may instead turn to:
- self-harm, such as cutting
- drugs and alcohol
- suicidal thoughts or actual attempts
Make Sense of Their Own Sensory Needs and Experiences
Other kids may be struggling in school simply due to their own innate neurological wiring. Their brains aren’t “neurotypical.” Your child’s grades in school may be suffering because it’s hard for them to pay attention and focus on the task at hand. Or they may find it challenging to interact with other people in general. This could be due to unrecognized sensory needs or be the result of their unique ways of making sense of the world.
That sounds like my kid. I think they need help.
It can be painful to see your child having a difficult time. You want to help, but you also understand that you can’t help them alone. You believe that your child or teen could benefit from working with a counselor, a neutral, yet caring third-party adult. Below are some ways that counseling can be helpful for children and teens:
The time and space for safe, healthy, honest self-expression
Sometimes it can be difficult to identify what it is that is bothering us. With this, it’s also important that we be in a safe environment where we know that we can tell the truth about our experience. This is especially true for children and teens who may not even be able to put their thoughts and feelings into words. Working with a counselor can provide them with that time and space. Working with a counselor through music therapy provides a satisfying and nonverbal means for self-expression.
Guidance in helping them identify thoughts and feelings, and connecting them to their actions
This doesn’t mean that we tell them what to think or how to feel. Instead as a counselor, I listen and reflect their thoughts back to them so that they can hear objectively what they’ve said. When they have an awareness of their underlying thoughts and feelings, we can then look at how those things connect to their actions.
Learn healthy ways to self-regulate and cope with stressful experiences or strong emotions
In order to succeed in adulthood, kids need to learn ways for working with strong emotions and managing or processing stressful experiences. Music is one way that this can be explored.
Critical thinking skills
We live in complex times. There is a lot of information swimming around out there. Kids, and especially teens, need to cultivate critical thinking skills in order make safe, healthy choices that will best serve them in life. Music therapy can help them develop these skills through a variety of music-based experiences.
This should go without saying, but kids need to know that their parents love them unconditionally. While it is perfectly appropriate to not “love” all of your child’s actions or behaviors, that shouldn’t affect the fundamental love you feel for your child. Likewise, it’s important that kids have other positive adult mentors in their lives. In the therapeutic relationship, unconditional love can be understood as unconditional positive regard.
I’m beginning to see how therapy may benefit my child, but…
How is music therapy different than my child taking music lessons?
Music therapy is different from music lessons because each has a different goal or focus. In therapy, the focus is on achieving some benefit or relief in an area of being that has been negatively affecting one’s ability to function in life. Music within the context of therapy can be thought of as a tool and a vehicle for personal exploration, growth, and development.
Whereas the focus of music lessons is on the development of musical skills. A person may find music lessons to be therapeutic, but the goal of lessons is musical development, not therapeutic benefit. We do provide adapted music lessons to those who may benefit from an adapted approach. See our Studio Policy for more information.
How long does therapy take, and how much does it cost?
The length of therapy varies by person. This can be due to a variety of factors. Typically, there is a period of few months where weekly therapy sessions are necessary, but then it can taper off to every two weeks, to once a month, to even no longer being necessary. Sometimes people also benefit from occasional check-ins. It all depends on a person’s circumstances. In general, the more complicated and complex a person’s situation is the more time that may be needed. The music therapy and counseling services offered by SoundWell Music Therapy are an hour-long and cost $90 an hour when provided in Longmont, or $100 when provided outside of Longmont.
How could music make therapy more effective for my child?
Music can “amplify” the skills and insights gained from therapy. This is because music impacts us in many different ways. We are neurologically and physiologically hard-wired to respond to music. As well, music can connect us to unrecognized thoughts and feelings, while also serving as a means of communication and self-expression. We can create and investigate new ways of being by engaging with music.
The Benefits of mental health music therapy for children and teens
Testimony from an EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION professional
“… As a trained music therapist, Faith wanted to use her knowledge and talent to address the goals of the children with special needs as well as to further the growth and development of all our students, using music as a medium… Our class would not have been the same if not for Faith’s compassionate and gentle approach in working with those around her” – Katie Riker, Early Childhood Special Education Teacher
Vignettes from my work (identifying Information modified to protect confidentiality):
Challenge: A child was in a treatment program for mental health issues. His mother used drugs and had abandoned him when he was a young child. We worked on goals related to attachment and healthy self-expression.
Treatment Plan/Results: Improvising together on the piano was foundational to our work together. Sitting side by side at the piano allowed us to be close, but not too close while we played at opposite ends of the piano. As we played, his fingers would gradually come close to mine. We would playfully “chase” each other on the piano. This allowed him to feel safe with an adult and he would later begin sharing his thoughts and feelings with me.
Challenge: A teen’s parents were divorced, and one of his parents was in prison. After experimenting with drugs, and getting into some legal trouble, he was in a treatment program. We worked on goals related to self-esteem and grief.
Treatment Plan/Results: Much of our work centered around me teaching him how to play requested songs on the instruments available to us. These songs had special personal meanings to him. Each song would take a few weeks to learn, but he was committed and focused. I watched his self-confidence visibly increase as he continued to develop proficiency in playing these songs.
Challenge: A teen girl was cutting herself and her parents were worried. I came to learn from her that she was struggling with her identity, including her sexuality. She was worried that her family wouldn’t accept her if they knew how she identified. The goal of our work together wasn’t for her to “come out” to her family. Instead, we worked on goals related to increasing her self-esteem and self-confidence so that she could “come out” when she was ready.
Treatment Plan/Results: She enjoyed singing, and she had eclectic musical tastes. These eclectic played out in the songs that she wanted to sing. Working with her on these songs allowed her to “try on” different personas, and singing helped her become more grounded and comfortable within herself. Her feelings of depression decreased. As she became more comfortable with me, she became more comfortable sharing with me her concerns about her family and relationship issues she had at school.
My experience as a therapist working with children and teens
My diverse experiences working with children and teens spans over 15 years. As an educator, I’ve worked in both the public school and private school settings in the United States and in South Korea. These experiences include early childhood education/special education, special education, and English as a Second Language. I also completed my clinical training at a youth residential treatment center in Denver where I worked with children and teens from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Along with this, I remember how difficult my own growing up experience was. I struggled as a child and teen, which resulted in my dropping out of high school my junior year, even though I’d always gotten good grades. Like many teen girls, I dealt with body issues and eating disordered thinking, depression, and suicidality.
Yet, I managed to make it all the way through graduate school and have been able to create a life that is in alignment with who I am and allows me to help others. It was hard, and I recognize that I was lucky in many ways due to my own socioeconomic and ethnic background. Because of this, I strive to be a caring adult role model for other young people being who are struggling with life challenges, including those challenges faced due to systemic oppression.
Ok, I’m Convinced. What Do I need to do next?
Contact us to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation if you think that your child or teen could benefit from the music therapy and counseling services offered by SoundWell Music Therapy. We’ll be happy to arrange a time when we can talk more about your particular situation and to schedule an initial session.