Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on December 18, 2020

How Relaxing Music for Kids Can Help ADHD (+ Music Recommendations)

How Relaxing Music for Kids Can Help ADHD (+ Music Recommendations)

Think about it, that adrenalin-pumping playlist on your iPod motivates us to keep going with our workout far more effectively than any fitness coach; whilst that mix of soft, gentle piano music can really help us unwind after a long, tiring day. No matter what’s going on in our lives, it’s rare to find a situation that the right kind of music can’t instantly improve.

But what does any of this have to do with ADHD?

Just as music can drive us to work harder in the gym or help us unwind, choosing the right relaxing music for kids can prove to be a powerful tool for helping them to feel calm, focused and relaxed, even in situations where their ADHD is usually at its most prevalent.

Why medication isn’t always the solution

For our kids, living with ADHD can turn what would otherwise be simple, short tasks into spiralling, marathon ordeals in which they’re constantly drawn this way and that by a constant deluge of distractions and stimuli.

As we all know, the most commonly prescribed solution is medication, though that’s rarely the perfect answer to the complex and variegated puzzle that is ADHD.

For some parents, it could simply be a moral objection to medicating their children. For others, it could be that their child’s particular traits don’t quite tick the necessary boxes to qualify for medication; whilst for others yet, it could simply be that their current prescription doesn’t quite cut it when helping their young ones enjoy the kind of calm focus needed to complete tasks such as homework or defined activities.

Whatever the case may be, this is where music comes into its own.

The dopamine effect

Whilst numerous studies over the years have indicated a strong link between certain types of music and improved focus, particularly in children, what few of those studies particularly agree on is the exact reason why.

Advertising

That being said, there are two reasons which appear to make the most sense.

The first is that listening to music can increase our levels of dopamine, the “happy chemical” which helps with focus and paying attention which is deficient in many people with ADHD.[1] By naturally increasing our children’s dopamine levels, we naturally help increase their level of focus.

The second is the idea that we all have two distinct ways that we pay attention.

Conscious vs. Unconscious attention

In 2013, a scientific study was published noting the distinction between Dorsal and Ventral attention systems, more commonly referred to since as conscious and unconscious attention systems.[2]

The study looked at how our conscious attention system is used to focus our attention on the things that we actually want to focus on. For example, you’re using your conscious attention span right now to read this article. Meanwhile, your unconscious attention system remains alert in the background, scanning for anything that might be important and shifting attention to it.

That’s why even though you’re focusing on reading this article, you’re still likely to be distracted if someone enters the room or moves around behind you.

Like many things, this is likely to be a gift left behind in our DNA from our ancestors who would need to focus on particular tasks like hunting and preparing food whilst being ever mindful of the persistent dangers presented by their environment.

Just because our environment today is far less dangerous doesn’t mean our unconscious attention system ever switches off. It keeps working, zoning in on anything from a noise somewhere in the house that startles us to a co-worker eating so loudly at their desk that the sound of them devouring lunch completely distracts us from working.

Advertising

In children with ADHD, this unconscious attention system is constantly on the go, alerting them to any number of potential distractions and proving far more effective at demanding their attention when the task they’re attempting to use their conscious attention system isn’t the most exciting thing in the world.

How music helps children with ADHD to focus

This is where music really comes into its own. Along with increasing dopamine levels, it also gives the unconscious attention system something to focus on, thus negating its ability to distract.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that any music will do.

Pop the latest Katy Perry record on as your kids are trying to get their homework done or subject them to a blast of Metallica, and you’re highly unlikely to get the results you’re after.

The right notes

As we all know, we all feel differently depending on the type of music we listen to. Something upbeat, funky and lively makes us want to jump out of our seats and dance around.

Something slow, sad and dark makes us feel a little melancholy, whilst a pummeling rock song might make our adrenalin soar.

So when it comes to choosing relaxing music for kids, it has to be the right type. Chose something fairly monotonous, like generic white noise is unlikely to have much effect.

Choose something too energetic like pop or rock music, and your children are more likely to want to get up and move around. This is great if you want to motivate them to exercise but not so much if you’re trying to help them focus.

Advertising

It’s also worth noting that music with lyrics can be equally as distracting, the singing or rapping being picked up by the conscious attention system instead of serving as something to neutralise the unconscious system.

So, that’s all the types of music that *don’t* work, what about those that do?

Most experts recommend instrumental music, particularly classical, though various types of electronic and ambient music can also work pretty well.

Recommended relaxing music for kids to help with ADHD

The good news is that the web is full of relaxing music playlists that you can use to help your children focus, and many of them are available for free.

Below, we’ll look at just five really good options you can start with, though in time you may find it more helpful to play around with songs, soundtracks and soundscapes to discover which ones your child responds to best, and create your own playlists based on those.

Happy relaxing guitar music for children

Popular Youtube channel OCB (One Conscious Breath) Relaxing Music offers a variety of relaxing soundtracks for children and grown-ups alike but we find this light, airy, acoustic-guitar-based video really works wonders in creating a gentle, relaxed environment conducive to improving focus.

Plus, it sounds all kinds of cheerful, thus increasing those all-important dopamine levels that can make all the difference to children with ADHD.

Classical music for kids

Available on Spotify, this carefully-selected playlist combines no less than 57 classical music tracks that serve as the perfect background soundtrack.

Advertising

Ranging from the delightfully uplifting to the peaceful aspects of the classical world, this rousing collection is particularly effective for helping to motivate our kids as well as help them focus.

Relaxing classical music

Speaking of all things classical, this is a 67 song playlist, again from Spotify which gently fades into the background, blocking out distractions as our kids’ conscious attention systems begin to work at their optimum best.

Peaceful, creative focus music

Jason Stephenson has amassed over 800,00 YouTube subscribers thanks to his vast array of guided meditations and musical collections designed to aid everything from getting a good night’s sleep to improving productivity.

Among all of his videos, this delicate combination of violin, piano, tympani drum, and bass proves to be particularly effective for engaging with reading, completing homework, or carrying out creative tasks.

Relaxing guitar music

As with many of the creators featured on our list, YellowBrickCinema are well worth checking out in more detail thanks to their large number of videos and playlists combining some of the most relaxing music on the Internet.

This three-hour video, full of gentle, intertwining acoustic guitars is so perfectly peaceful and soothing that it works just as effectively in helping our children study as it does in helping us to relax and unwind after we’ve put them to bed.

Happy instrumental music for kids in the classroom

Last but not least, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention this one; an hour of stirring, uplifting background music specifically chosen for its effectiveness in improving focus and concentration and ensuring that ADHD needn’t be a barrier to our children’s success.

If you want to help your kids focus, try the above music with them. Soon you’ll find them feeling calm and more willing to focus on what’s on their hands.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Chris Skoyles

Coach, and trainee counsellor specializing in mental health and addiction.

5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly) 13 Ideas on How to Help Depression That Just Won’t Go Away 10 Anxiety Relief Apps to Take the Edge Off When Stress Hits Hard Anxiety vs Depression: What’s the Difference and How to Deal with Them? What Does Anxiety Feel Like? (Types and Symptoms of the Invisible Killer)

Trending in Parenting

1 Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It) 2 17 Ted Talks for Kids to Inspire Little Minds to Do Big Things 3 The Leading Causes of Prenatal Depression and How to Manage it Best 4 How to Help Your Child Develop Self Regulation Skills 5 How to Teach Your Kid to Read at Home

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

Advertising

  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

Advertising

Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

Advertising

Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

Advertising

    Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

    15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

    Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

    16. Talk about bullying.

    It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

    17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

    Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

    18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

    Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

    Depression in children is curable

    Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

    Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

    Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

    The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
    [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
    [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

    Read Next