Forget the Savage Beasts, Will Music Soothe My Child?

Dear Mr. Dad: My 9-year old son is having some medical tests in a few weeks, some of which involve drawing blood, and he’s already getting nervous. He’s had shots before and did okay, so I don’t think this has anything to do with needles. When I ask him about it, he says he’s worried about how much it’s going to hurt. Honestly, I’m a little nervous about the whole thing too. Is there anything I can do to help him?

A: You have my sympathy. My youngest went through a seemingly endless series of procedures, including some pretty heavy duty blood draws. Fortunately, she’s like me in that she seems to enjoy watching needles go into her arm. Still, like your son (and most other normal human beings), she’s not wild about the pain.

It’s good that you’re thinking about this now. Pain during medical procedures can traumatize kids and may have long-lasting negative effects (just think of how many people are scared of going to the dentist). Before you schedule the lab work, talk to your pediatrician. There are topical anesthetics than can minimize the pain of the needle sticks. And your doctor may be able to order a mild sedative for your son, as long as it won’t interfere with the blood tests.

I also suggest that you talk to the lab tech about bedside manner before the blood draining starts. With my daughter, the phlebotomist laid out 19 vials on the table. I have to admit I was a little freaked out, thinking she’d have no blood left at all. My daughter seemed to take the whole thing in stride, but it would have been somewhat less shocking to take the vials out one at a time.

One of the best ways to help your child is to distract him—something a number of studies have found is very successful at reducing pain and anxiety during medical procedures. You could read him a story, sing a song together, recite a poem, watch a video, let him play a game on your smart phone (as long as he can do it with one hand), or even do breathing exercises. As I’m sure you know, the patterned breathing used in many childbirth prep methods doesn’t actually reduce pain; it just makes it a little easier to get through.

One of the simplest distractions of all is to simply bring your MP3 player and a few of your son’s favorite tunes. A new Canadian study found that children who listened to music while having IV needles inserted into their arms in the Emergency Room were less stressed than those who didn’t listen to music.

Lisa Hartling, a researcher at the University of Alberta and the study’s lead author, found that besides reducing the children’s stress levels, there were also some positive “secondary outcomes,” including lowering the children’s heart rate, reducing the amount of pain they perceived, and making it easier for the provider to actually do the procedure.

Hartling also noted that playing music reduced parents’ anxiety, which leads me to perhaps the most important thing you can do: try to relax. Our kids take cues from us on how to behave, especially in unfamiliar or potentially frightening situations. If you look (and act) nervous, worried, or scared, your son will immediately assume that there is something to be nervous, worried, or scared about, and he’ll behave accordingly.

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Making Music Together

[amazon asin=B000RMUHTA&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 1: Ken Guilmartin, founder of Music Together, and author of Music Together.
Topic: A research-based, developmentally appropriate childhood music program.
Issues:All children can learn to sing in tune, keep a beat, and participate with confidence in the music of our culture, provided that their early environment supports such learning.

How Children Learn Music + Military Family Programs + “Spouse Calls” Columnist + Young Military Journalists

[amazon asin=B000RMUHTA&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 1: Ken Guilmartin, founder of Music Together, and author of Music Together.
Topic: A research-based, developmentally appropriate childhood music program.
Issues:All children can learn to sing in tune, keep a beat, and participate with confidence in the music of our culture, provided that their early environment supports such learning.

Interviews with…



3 Ways Social Media Can Help You Succeed in Classes

What? Social media can help kids succeed in class? Well, if the kids in question are in college, there’s a good chance there’s a better-than-even chance that they’re using social media all the time anyway, so all we can do is show them how to put their social media chops to good use. In this guest post, educator Justin Miller shows us how.

It might seem counterintuitive—social media actually improving your grades and and music skills?—but is doesn’t have to be. Social media outlets can be wildly effective tools for planning parties, but these networks can also be helpful when it comes to acing the hands-on components of your courses, particularly when it comes to music. There are some uses you might not even expect.

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Running Ragged

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m getting a little worried that we’re putting too much pressure on my son to get involved in extracurricular activities. He plays soccer, is active in his Boy Scout troop, and does karate. Now there’s talk about art classes during the week, too. I know that extracurricular activities are good, but how much is too much?

A: Yep, you’re right: extracurricular activities are great for your son. They show him that there is life outside of academics, and they can teach some very valuable life lessons. Boy Scouts and soccer can help your son learn to interact better with others and what teamwork is all about. Karate is great, too. In the right dojo, he’ll learn about respect and the importance of hard work and patience (martial arts should be a meritocracy). Karate is also be great for conditioning and can even boost self-esteem.
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Do Pipers Actually Get Paid?

Dear Mr. Dad: Help! Our son is a high school junior, but instead of planning for college, he says he wants to make a career out of playing drums in a band! He’s a talented musician, and he and his buddies play gigs at community events, but he can’t understand that he won’t make a living out of it. How do we persuade him to give college a chance?

A: There are really two issues here: First, can your son succeed as a musician? Second, should he skip going to college? Keep in mind that, at 16, he’s quite literally trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up and his desire to forgo college and play in a band may be just a flash in the pan.

Who says he won’t make a living playing music? Some people, either through hard work, sheer luck (or a combination of both), actually do make it, and some colleges do offer music scholarships. But in general, you’re right: most musicians—or artists in general—don’t. Far more creative people are unemployed or working as waiters or scooping gelato than those who are making a good living at it.
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