Music as Comfort and Inspiration

Right now we’re all experiencing some upheaval because of COVID-19. With changes in school, routines, and activities, children can become anxious — even afraid they are in danger. In times like these, music can be a great strength.

Stories and songs about great people and events from the past and present can comfort and inspire us and our children. Pull your kids close and use songs and stories about our land and people to give them hope, a sense of belonging, and a greater purpose. For more on this topic, we love the following article written in the wake of 9/11:

In Times of Tragedy …

The events of September 11, 2001 will long be remembered as a day pivotal to world and American history. The final outcome of this day, however, has yet to be determined, and teachers and parents are hearing advice — important advice — about how to care for children during these turbulent times. Many of us are working to establish stronger links with one another — simply because we need the love and security that family and friends provide. 

In considering how we might establish a more secure environment for our children, we can turn to what we know to be most basic about childhood development. We know that children make connections to their world based upon the bond that exists between the child and primary caregiver. Thus, it is a time for emphasizing family ties, especially those one-on-one relationships that thrive within the immediate family. Through the ages, music has been used to enhance family bonds; so now is a time to sing and hold our children close, using music’s power to comfort and console. We also know that children need order in their lives. This includes times of daily quiet that feature rest or relaxation with very little chatter or activity. Listening to soothing music during this time will provide a nonverbal reminder of the beauty and order that exist in our world. 

We can also talk to children in a need-to-know manner, discussing issues according to what the child is asking. This does not mean glossing over our children’s questions, but it also does not mean giving them details that they are not seeking. Notably, talking to children is much preferred to having a television commentator explain to your children how you (or they) are feeling. In considering television use, experts advise that preschool children not see any disturbing news reports and that primary-aged children only view such reports with a caring adult and on a very limited basis. September 11’s horrific and baffling pictures greatly affected the psyche of us all, with the impact on children being especially detrimental. By contrast, the conversations parents and teachers have with children can be designed to be calming and reassuring. 

Finally, it is important for children to realize that they are part of a larger world and that there are many good people in their world. Patriotic songs express a connection between the self and a larger body, while often conveying a common ideal. This might help explain some of the emotions felt when singing such songs — or when hearing stories about the courageous actions of men and women. Such stories and songs are what epics are made of and are central to the storytelling process of days gone by. Through song and story, children learned about the greatness of their ancestors and pondered their own place in their communities. Perhaps it is time to retell such stories and to craft new stories that will inspire today’s children. 

Children are moved by events both tragic and heroic, by deeds both great and small, and they need to find expression for such thoughts and feelings. We can set a good example for our children by telling heroic stories of our own (representing our own families, communities, and beyond) and by singing and making us songs that convey what words alone cannot express. Music can help our children — and us– through these times. Keep the songs and stories coming!

Early Childhood Connections, Foundation for Music-Based Learning, Greensboro, NC, published in the Fall 2001 ECC Leadership Bulletin and authorized for photocopy and redistribution.