It’s easier than you might think….
Emotion regulation is your brain’s attempt to maintain a state of arousal that is balanced between positive and negative emotions (1). This is usually done both consciously and unconsciously through a combination of chemical activation in the brain and coping skills that are learned through experience.
“Self-regulation is considered a central developmental milestone in early childhood” (2). Without self-regulation a person’s emotional, cognitive, and social components may be negatively affected and “the development of emotion regulation is considered an early marker for the development of appropriate self-regulation” (3).
Usually, figuring out the why of emotional regulation is not in the forefront of our minds when we are listening to music; but understanding what is going on in our brains may motivate you to attend to music differently with your child.*
And it turns out that the musical requirements needed to activate the areas in the brain that regulate emotion are actually very simple. Here are some tips to help you aid your child in their development:
• Make sure the music you use is familiar, pleasant, and predictable
• Engage your child in active music making (playing instruments, singing, improvising)
• Encourage your child to attend to musical cues, such as pauses, phrases, changes in tempo, etc., and
• Use musical cues to facilitate motor movement and memory tasks
• Songs that contain clashing sounds and chords that can’t be anticipated
• Using unfamiliar music or unfavorable songs, and
• Listening to music with eyes closed
So there you have it! Four easy tips on how to support your child’s development~ and most likely you’ve already been doing them. You don’t need research scientists to tell you you’ve been a great parent—but it’s nice to have their confirmation ☺
If you’re interested in this or other articles on music therapy and special needs, visit our Resource Page. Below are some websites that also other insightful research in this area:
Sena Moore, K. (2013). A Systematic Review on the Neural Effects of Music on Emotion Regulation: Implications for Music Therapy Practice. Journal of Music Therapy, 50(3), p. 198-242. Copyright 2013 by the American Music Therapy Association.
*The article that discusses the 59 research studies on which this blog is based only evaluated studies whose participants were children without a diagnosis of any kind. More research is needed to see if the same areas of the brain are activated in the same way for children with diagnoses such as ASD, Down Syndrome, and other developmental disabilities; however, the amount of research that exists showing the positive effects of music within the special needs population is abundant and indicates the efficacy of music as a valid therapy across a myriad of populations.