In a room of crowded people, it’s possible to feel alone. As you know, it takes more than being in a public space to know that someone is by your side. Similarly, for children and adolescents, it takes more than living under the same roof as their parents and siblings to know that they are being seen, heard, accepted, and loved. Actively engaging in music together is one way for parents and children to bond and grow in the social-emotional skills that make up a healthy family life.

“Hold Us Together” by Matt Maher

This song has a steady beat for the whole family to follow along. The harmonic progression (i.e., chord pattern) and predictable musical turns provide the listeners with a consistent form that helps create a structured music-based experience. Besides the musical aspects, the lyrics remind us that, while “love” might not have a lot of value in the economic and political spheres, it’s the one thing that we need to help us overcome difficulties. The lyrics not only encourage the listener to know that love is waiting for them when they want to accept it- but that it’s also something they are commissioned to do as well. We are made to love and be loved. Where do we first learn this fundamental expression of our humanity? In the family! And it’s never too late to start making the family this beacon of light, this school of love in the darkest of times.

Here is one way you can use this song to actively engage your family:

  • Intro: Gather everyone in a circle.
  • Verse 1: Clap along to the beat at “it won’t fix your life.”
  • Chorus: Prompt everyone to use American Sign Language (ASL). Watch video link from Sarah Signs channel for the signs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6KiuOx1WO0
  • Verse 2: Clap along to the beat again.
  • Chorus: Revisit the ASL signs again
  • Bridge: “This is the first day…,” everyone can hold hands and walk together in the circle until the end of the song.

Modifications: This activity can be made simpler or more complex by only choosing a few signs in the chorus or by also signing the verse. The purpose of signing is to help emphasize the message of the chorus- by not only hearing the words but also repeating them in ASL. Additionally, collectively learning a new skill can help the family grow in patience, handle frustrations, and practice compassion with each other. If your family appreciated learning this song in ASL together, here is the link again to watch the interpreter sign the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6KiuOx1WO0. You can find additional signed songs on her channel!

Song Discussion: A brief discussion gives you an opportunity to assess how much was gleaned from the activity, and to sum-up the important points from the time together. You can start by asking,

  1. What did you like about the song or activity?
  2. How did you feel about learning some of the tricky parts?
  3. What did it feel like to perform the signs with the song, especially after practicing them?

Helping your children feel successful within the learning process and to enjoy the learning process, sets a precedent for intrinsic motivation which is a valuable part of responding to challenges in the future. You can explain that success is not defined by getting everything right- but by how they respond to the challenge (e.g., with patience in themselves and those around them). Validate their perseverance, their creativity, and be specific by noting the different moments when they displayed these. Let them know that you enjoyed being with them and working on this project together. Remind them that you are always available to support them, and to help and guide them.

Validating your children in this way gives them the confidence to continue on in their studies and interactions with others strengthened by the firm knowledge of who they are in the context of love.

To discover more music by Matt Maher, check out his YouTube channel and stay connected through his website https://www.mattmahermusic.com/

Another one of Matt Maher’s songs, “Garden,” is more meditative, and can be used as part of an evening reflection to examine the movements of your heart and take an account of how you are feeling on an emotional level. To learn more about morning and evening playlists and music exercises for meditation, check out my podcasts available here on the website http://promusictherapy.com/content/podcast/.

Here is the link for “Garden:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-X6rPVTGdo&list=PLZ7IYxHHfhnJLQ1DvpcdCPFomJpY7vGBO&index=12

For more music-based activities to create a culture of wellness within the family, continue to check-in on this website and follow the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MusicTherapyforMom