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Ditch the Structured Activity for an Unstructured Alternative



Music reduces stress – supposedly. That is until you attempt to get your child to practice.  It appears that the “shut down” stress response has struck even activities children have previously enjoyed. The announcement of practice time raises a chorus of; “I can’t.” “I won’t.” “You can’t make me!” “It’s too hard.” “I miss you.” “Stay with me.” And repeats itself growing ever more “forte.”

Do you allow your child to quit? Or, fight for forty minutes to get ten minutes of “practice?”

Typically, Lynn and I would have recommended find out what’s up? What about practicing your child does not like and work him through it, but the pandemic is changing everything. Its highly likely that this sudden, vehement refusal is the “shut down,” stress response. All systems have collapsed. It is impossible to come out from under the table. Sometimes the only way to get things going again is to stop and find a different route to reach your goal. 

Think about why you have your child participating in music lessons – or any other lessons for that matter.  Is a love and appreciation of music a family value? Do you believe the rigor of daily practice builds fortitude? Whatever it is, identify your foundational goal.  Weekly lessons and daily practice may be one way of achieving this goal, but it is not the only one. Time and energy are limited resources.

Right now, a great deal of energy is being expended simply coping with daily life. Whoever imagined that buying groceries would re-quire “suiting-up,” and/or “de-contaminating every single item. What used to take an hour now requires two – and another three for your heart rate to return to normal. 

What if today you decided to temporarily ditch the structured practice sessions and instead focused on your foundational goal-building a love of music? Your first reaction to this suggestion may be a silent scream, “No! This is the last remaining remnant of structure we have!”  But what if instead of viewing taking a break as a loss you recognize it as an opportunity to expand the possibilities.

If you are a musician you can play and invite your child to sing, dance, or play with you. If the children are old enough, play music trivia. Name songs and artists. Talk about different types of music. Research the background stories of favorite artists. Paint pictures listening to lively tunes and compare that artwork to those painted when the song is haunting. Perhaps your child may be intrigued by the prospect of writing and performing their own musical. Record it for the enjoyment of family and friends. 

Great artists tell us they LOVE what they are doing. Whether a musician, artist or avid reader, they can’t imagine a day without time spent on their passion. Perhaps it is time to temporarily let go of structure and technique and replace it with building a life-long love relationship. 

Give it a try.  Dr. Mary and Lynn

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