Friday, December 6, 2013

May There Always Be Me: Music's Power to Reach Children

Music has a power to open lines of communication with children...



Twenty minutes before my parent meeting in August of 2012, I had a pregnant mother, and friend of mine, call me and tell me that there were complications with her unborn daughter and it was going to be too much for their family to participate in Let's Play Music and take care of a sick infant.  There were a few tears and understanding words shared between us at which point I told her I would be happy to have her 5 year old son, Carson, participate if something changed.

Sadly, things did change and a week later I attended the funeral of that precious 3 day old daughter.

My friend called me about a week after the funeral and asked if I still had a spot for Carson, which I did.  She said she felt as though she needed to keep things as normal as possible for the other children, 5 and 3 years old, after the passing of the baby.  Carson is one VERY, VERY active boy who needs an understanding and loving teacher.  She thought music class would be a great outlet and learning environment for him. 

Grief Counseling

I asked his mom how he was doing with the death of his little sister and she told me he had never said anything about it.  He would act out sometimes but never talked about his sister.   They were attending grief counseling where the counselor told them that this was completely normal and he may NEVER talk about it.  Young children process differently than adults, but to make sure they always kept the lines of communication open and let him know he could talk about it if he wanted.   But not to expect it.

I had him start class on lesson 3 so he would have his mom there with him on his first visit to Let's Play Music.  I quickly realized that he was going to be a very challenging student.  Sitting still and not talking were not his strong points!  I sometimes wondered if it was really worth the money being spent.  I would often struggle with him walking around, sitting in corners and trying to tell stories, very animated stories, in the middle of my teaching.  I would say to him, “I really want to hear that story.  Can you remember it and tell me after class?”  I would say that to him… A LOT.  

 He Listened

 Then came our first time in class talking about a lullaby and listening to/singing ‘May There Always be Me’.  We rocked as we listened to this song.  Carson rocked.  He didn’t talk.  He listened.  When I stopped the music he raised his hand.  First time ever.  I called on him and very excitedly told him, “Thank you for raising your hand!”  He said, “That’s a song we should sing to my sister.”  He continued on, “She isn’t here anymore.  She is in heaven but I think she can still hear us.  She died.  They put her in a box and sent her to heaven.”  I was so taken aback.  I did not ever expect to hear him talk about the passing of his baby sister.  Obviously, this time I let him tell as much of his story as he wanted.   “She was sick in my mommy’s tummy.  The doctor had to take her out.  But she was dead.  In a box.  They put her in a box.  It was little.  I think me and mommy should sing this song to her at bedtime.  It would make her happy.  She would like it.  I will sing to her.”  I tried to compose myself and finish class.

A Glimpse into A Child's Mind

I talked with his mom after class and told her what occurred during our lullaby.  She was in tears and thanked me over and over for sharing with her and allowing him to share and talk.  Up to that point, he still had not said a word about it to anyone.  Not once.  She was grateful there was an opportunity to get a glimpse into his mind as to what he was feeling and thinking about having a sibling die.  The grief counselor prepared her to never expect Carson to speak of it again. 

Carson had some weeks following that lesson where he would be in tears or would act out.  But we worked together.  He started answering questions.  Correctly.  Sometimes yelling out of turn… but he KNEW HIS STUFF!  I can ask him any question today and he will have the right answer.  All those weeks of sitting in the corner, wandering around or doing donkey kicks – he was listening.  That smart little boy was teasing me and making me think he wasn’t paying attention.  He was paying attention and music has opened up his world in ways I will never be able to understand.  A family was strengthened and gained a greater perspective of their 5 year old’s life than even a grief counselor could believe. This family was able to better assist their child in healing after the loss of a sister because of what was shared during my LPM class.

Music Has Power Beyond Notes and Chords

Students act out the scary genie during the Aladdin's Lamp puppet show.

I have been teaching LPM for 7 years now.  I have seen LPM affect kids and families in so many positive ways throughout the years.  However, those 10 minutes during that class listening to Carson’s story after singing a lullaby changed me and my outlook on how and why I teach Let’s Play Music forever.   It reaffirmed to me that music has powers beyond notes and chords.  It has strengthened my conviction that every child needs music in their life.  And not just for the reasons and benefits we normally think of as music educators.  I continue to be impressed with all of my LPM classes, but I especially look forward to seeing what Carson is able to accomplish when he graduates two years from now.

 --Kim Seyboldt, Let's Play Music Teacher


3 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this, Kim. This is such a tender story and a great reminder of why we all NEED music in our lives.

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  2. I love this! I also had an infant daughter die shortly before my oldest started his LPM classes. My 2 boys certainly don't talk about their sister nearly as much as I think about her, but when they do, it is often through sharing those same kinds of thoughts: We should sing this song, she would like it, etc. I love those moments of hearing how they (my oldest, especially) is processing it all. Music definitely aids in those conversations.

    Thanks for sharing!

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