Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Power of the Lullaby

The Power of the Lullaby

Soft and sweet, sung with love in the heart, slow and soothing, the lullaby is a very precious ritual mommies and daddies can share with their little one!

Rituals are very important for children. They provide predictability and a framework with which everything else can happen. The repetitious nature of having a ritual is a very valuable part of the ritual. For many children, rituals help the world feel safe.

When a family chooses lullaby time as a family ritual, it can be like sharing a precious heirloom. It is very common for parents to sing the lullabies their parents sung to them as children. These family musical mementos can be passed down for many generations.

Music can help soothe even the most savage beast.

Psychologists have helped us to understand the best way to regulate a child’s emotion is through singing. When a mother sings to her child, the level of serotonin in her child’s brain increases which helps promote feelings of contentedness and happiness (and more likely to fall asleep). Since much of music is processed in the same part of the brain as emotions, music nurtures the bond between parent and child!Many people think singing lullabies only for infants; however toddlers and preschool age children enjoy and benefit the sweetness of having a parent sing to them before going off to sleep. Older children can request their favorites and help make up words. The soothing benefits of lullaby can also extend to the singing parent; singing lullaby can calm a parent’s frayed nerves at the end of the day, and the peaceful effect can help as children respond naturally to our moods.

Lullabies are used in every culture.

The term “lullaby” comes from ‘lu lu’ or ‘la la’ sound made by families to calm children, and ‘by’ or ‘bye bye’, either another lulling sound or a term from good night. Lullabies are found in cultures all around the world. They are typically sung with lower pitches and at a slower tempo. It is curious that many traditional lullabies are set in minor keys with content that is upsetting in nature.

Lullaby 101:

There are many easy ways to incorporate lullaby into your night time routine:
· Pick a song that you truly love. This part is very important. I’ve heard of families slowing down their favorite Rolling Stone song and singing it to baby. Slowly build your repertoire of lullabies to sing to your child. Your child may have a favorite that you choose to sing over and over; repetition is good!
· Make up lullaby. Use your child’s name and repeat it over and over with any melody you like or a newly invented one. Let your creativity fly! Humming or singing quietly on “la, la”, or “lu, lu” also works very well.
· Pick a comfy quiet place to sing with little one! Some families choose a rocking chair, some cuddle up next to their toddler in bed or even on the couch with the light dimmed low. Eye contact can be very bonding.
· Sing it slowly! Rocking is highly recommended. If your child is crying and hysterical, singing slowly might be very futile. Try starting off with a quicker tempo and gradually slow it down as you notice the child’s breathing slowing.
· While it may be tempting to put on a CD, live singing to your child is much more meaningful. Don’t worry if you are in tune or if you are ruining your child’s tonality; you are not! By sharing lullaby time you are imparting your love of music and sweet and gentle way. Children get their disposition to be music makers from their favorite adults.

Lullaby time can be a wonderfully bonding experience. It is a time to slow down and share unconditional love with your child. This connection is the magic that happens when families embrace lullaby time with their children.

Kathy Rowe, M.A. Music Education and Center Director of Music Together in Phoenix, LLC

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