My kiddos are now 4 and 7 and I have learned a thing or two about parenting in that time (still learning though!)

As I was leading a group music therapy session online earlier this week, something struck me.

Much of what I’ve learned as a parent frequently comes into play in my music therapy sessions with children.

(And the reverse is true too, so stay tuned for details on that in the next blog post!)

Here are some ways parenting has helped me become a better music therapist:

Being goofy can help – This is one of my favorite parenting tricks. If one of my children doesn’t want to do something or is having a hard time, oftentimes humor can help. Not to make fun of them, but to bring some levity to a tense situation. More often than not, a smile ends up breaking through the tears.

I’ve used this strategy in my music therapy sessions many times. I think goofiness helps children feel connected to me and helps us work together more closely.

Schedules can help – I am a super planned out, organized kind of person. I’ve had my kids on a schedule since pretty much the day they were born and it has served us well. We can be flexible when needed, of course, but knowing that lunch is always followed by quiet time, and quiet time is followed by TV time, has been a life saver.

Likewise, my music therapy clients know that our sessions more or less follow the same schedule from week to week (though there certainly is room for flexibility within that schedule!) We always start with Hello Song and typically follow that with a Greeting Song and Movement experience before moving on to the rest of the session. I believe this predictable routine helps alleviate some anxiety for them, because they know what to expect and what is expected of them.

Planning ahead can help – Just as schedules are an important part of my life as a parent and music therapist, so is planning ahead. I like having my sessions planned well in advance. This way, my visuals are prepared, my music is solid, and I can be totally present and not feel scattered when I begin a session.

I will admit though, having my kiddos home full time with me for the past year and a half has made this TOUGH, but has also reminded me why it is critical to plan in advance. (You never know when your kiddo will bust their lip or need a wipe right before you log onto Zoom.)

I’m MUCH more familiar with the developmental milestones – It’s one thing to read about children developing language skills, and it’s another to actually watch your own children learn to babble, say their bilabials, and say their first utterances. It’s one thing to read that toddlers can be defiant, and it’s another to perfect the strategies that aid in compliance day in and day out (giving choices, giving them autonomy, etc.)

I’ve seen my own children go through these milestones, so I have a deeper understanding of where my clients are in their developmental process and how I can aid them in making progress.

Now I would love to hear from you.

How has being a parent helped (or hindered) your work as a music therapist? Leave a comment below to let us know.

And tune in next week when I share how my life’s work as a music therapist has helped me become a better parent (let me count the ways!)