What's Your Summer Jam?

Brought to you by Creative Healing for Youth in Pain's Parenting Blog

Vanya Green, MA, LPCC, MT-BC
June 10, 2024 / 5 mins read

Do you remember what it was like as a teenager to hear a favorite song on the radio? In the age before audio streaming services became universally available, it may have felt like a stroke of luck, and perhaps you stopped to savor the moment. Back in the day, if we wanted to hear a preferred song on repeat, we had to buy an album or make a mixtape, all of which required forethought and effort.

We can listen to virtually any song we like at any time and likely don’t think much about it. How has the ease with which we access music impacted us, and how do we bring back that sense of appreciation? Moreover, if the world is at our fingertips, why do so many teens report feeling isolated and depressed?

According to the concept of “hedonic adaptation,” after experiencing a positive or negative experience, most people return to a baseline state of happiness. We get acclimated to the “new, desirable” thing and go back to feeling the same as we did before. And I imagine that the more manageable the thing was to acquire or how commonplace it feels, the less attention we may pay to its uniqueness.

So, how about we bring it into the foreground while listening to a song with our kids? We may pause what we are doing and just listen. We can let the song wash over us. We can then also begin to listen to the different components, stopping to appreciate the unique qualities of the music. We can engage in a conversation about the rhythm track. We can imagine the process of composition and talk about how the different instruments add to the gestalt of the piece.

We each have a soundtrack to our lives. The more we integrate our own soundtrack with our children, the more in sync we can be. We may not like their music choices, but we can use a song as a window into their world. We can stop to listen to it and, in the process, help them feel more seen and on an equal footing with us as connoisseurs or creators of their own art.

One of the main implications social media has in increasing negative emotions in teens is that online interactions often lack meaningful connections. In contrast, music can connect us to ourselves and one another profoundly without requiring words or explanation. There is a reason why one of the last faculties preserved in people with dementia is their memory of the music that they liked during their teenage years. Music elicits strong memories and can take us back to a moment in time in an instant.

Listening to a song together can lighten the mood without sweeping problems under the rug. It can actually transform a tense moment into one where we feel a renewed sense of possibility and space. Music gives us an accessible way to connect with our children in time.

What were your summer jams when you were a teenager—those songs that made you smile when they came on the radio and made you want to dance? What songs do that for your child today? By creating a shared soundtrack for the summer—and perhaps the teenage years—we can remember to keep connecting with our children through exciting and challenging moments alike.