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Last Updated on December 18, 2020

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Chris Skoyles

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

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

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Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

In today’s chaotic world, having family time isn’t always easy. It can get pretty hard to coordinate schedules, especially if the family is large. Life demands that we work, attend school, nurture friendships, hobbies, etc. All of those things are extremely time-consuming and important—but so is spending time with your family.

Why is family time so important? Because we all need love and support, and a good, strong family can provide that regularly. For children, spending time with their family helps shape them into good, responsible adults, improve their mental health, and develop strong core values.

There are many positive effects of spending time with your family. My family and I, for instance (and this includes grandchildren as well), meet every Tuesday night for dinner and games. My older son and I take turns cooking. This gives all of us a chance to try some new recipes. After dinner, we play games. And without fail, they inspire competitiveness and laughter. As family night has evolved, the grandkids have invited their friends over as well, creating the need for more chairs but also expanding our circle of fun.

Aside from the obvious fun and games, there are other reasons why spending time with your family is paramount. In this article, I will provide you with multiple reasons why spending time with your family regularly is a win-win. And then, I will lay out some ways on how to do it.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important

Here are six reasons why it’s important to spend time with your family.

1. Provides the Opportunity to Bond

When you spend time together as a family—talking about your day, your highs, your lows—it fosters communication. As parents, it gives you the chance to listen to your children, to hear them out, to learn about what’s going on in their world. It also provides you with the opportunity to use life situations as teaching moments.

Before our Tuesday night dinner/game nights, my family used to see each other pretty regularly but not consistently, especially the grandkids. Our family night changed all that. Now, it’s guaranteed that the grandchildren, along with some of their friends, will be there. Not only do I get to find out what’s been happening in their lives, but they also get to know us better. It’s creating memories they can treasure forever, as well as modeling the Get-Together tradition for when they eventually have families of their own.

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“Spending time partaking in everyday family leisure activities has been associated with greater emotional bonding within families.”[1]

2. Teaches the Value of Family

Taking the time to be with your family lets your children know they are valued—that spending time together is a priority. I know that in today’s world, both parents are busy as both usually working. What better way to let your children know they are loved than by carving out time each week to spend with them?

According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage are core to centuries of religious, philosophical, and family beliefs. Use them and others to express and reinforce your family values. Teach children the behaviors that flow from these principles. Use quotes to ignite meaningful dinner conversations and encourage kids to talk about these values.”[2]

3. Enhances Mental Well-Being

Spending that quality time together gives your children a safe platform in which to express themselves, ask questions about things that are bothering them, or talk about their day and things they’ve learned. I know that my 9-year old granddaughter can’t wait until it’s her turn to talk about her day. She usually goes on and on and has to be stopped to give everyone else a chance to talk about their goings-on.

“Research shows the quality of family relationships is more important than their size or composition. Whoever the family is made up of, they can build strong, positive relationships that promote wellbeing and support children and young people’s mental health.”[3]

For children, having the opportunity to seek advice from parents they trust—as well as being able to have a sounding board and help with problem-solving—is priceless. In addition, being able to voice their opinions and be heard—and to feel like what they have to say matters—is an esteem-builder. All of these can have a very impactful positive effect on their well-being.

4. Helps the Child Feel Loved

How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with them—talking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that they’re essential—that they matter. What a gift to give your child!

“If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.”[4]

5. Creates a Safe Environment

If you regularly spend time with your children, you are also creating an atmosphere of trust. The more trust they have, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on in their world. As they get older, you’re going to want to know. Negative influences can show up at any time, but if you’ve always been there for your child, they are more apt to come to you and ask for your advice.

Spending time together generates familiarity and feelings of being supported. When a child feels safe and comfortable, they’re more likely to open up. This is one way to get to know your child and know what’s on their minds. Are they okay? Do they need your guidance? If so, how?

6. Reduces Stress

This is significant. We all suffer from stress at one point or another in our lives. Spending time with family helps alleviate that stress. It’s an opportunity to talk things out, get feedback, and maybe brainstorm for a solution to the problem that is causing the stress.

According to Brandy Drzymkowski, “During the holidays, your closest five people probably shifts to family and friends. You may even get to see loved ones who live far away. Good news! This can actually help lower your stress levels. Studies show ‘face-to-face interaction…counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response.’ In other words, quality time spent with loved ones is nature’s stress reliever.”[5]

So, now that you know some of the benefits, what are some ideas for making family time happen?

How to Make Family Time Happen

Here are four things you can do to make family time happen and spend more time with them.

1. Family Dinners

This, as I said above, is a wonderful way to spend time together. While you’re having dinner, you have the chance to discuss things that are going on in your lives—the ups, the downs, and everywhere in between. It’s like having a buffer against life’s challenges.

Aside from that, eating dinner together has many additional benefits. Studies have shown that for kids who eat regularly with their families, there is less risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression.[6]

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“Our belief in the ‘magic’ of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.” It further states, “We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner—the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.”[7]

According to Parenting NI, “children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behavior. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”[8]

As you can see, there are multiple benefits to spending time with each other routinely. You can’t go wrong with this family activity.

2.  Regular Movie Nights

This is another fun event, although, from personal experience, I have to caution that choosing a movie that everyone wants to see is not easy. So, give yourselves plenty of time so you don’t spend two hours searching for a movie, and then end up watching no movie at all because the night is practically over. Try and choose a movie before the day, if possible.

Afterward, open it up for discussion. Ask questions pertinent to the movie. What do you think of ABC? Should they have done that? Would you have done something differently? There are so many questions you can ask to spark a conversation and keep the night going.

3. Game Night

This is another occasion for great fun. If you have a competitive spirit, it makes it even more fun. There are numerous games out there—Balderdash, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, to name a few—that can create fun havoc. All I can say is, on game nights, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s okay if you lose the game. The fun is in being together, laughing, debating, and having a good time.

In addition, “Playing board games is great for children for many reasons besides the obvious; it’s fun to play games! Age appropriate games can help children to think strategically, solve problems creatively, work on pattern recognition and build simple math skills. They also help children develop social skills such as following rules, taking turns, and graceful winning or losing. Additionally, a family game night provides an opportunity for children to bond with siblings, parents and family members as well as peers. It can promote tradition building and establish a fun routine.”[9]

So, go find your family a game and start having fun!

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4. Sharing a Hobby

If you and one of your kids like to do the same things, do it more often. For example, my oldest son and his teenage son go on long bike rides together on the weekends. Not only do they get to exercise, but they also get to talk and look at beautiful sceneries. They’ve also incorporated cooking into their routine. They plan the meal, shop, and prepare—activities that bring them closer together.

Sharing a hobby is a great way to bring family members together. It bonds people in amazing ways. According to Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW, “One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy. There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them.”[10]

Final Thoughts

Spending time with the family is an investment. It is an investment in the happiness, well-being, and security of that system. It can also serve as a way to break out of the daily rut and the constant worldly demands, while at the same time, building a strong family unit.

Even though it isn’t always easy to find the time, finding the time is key to staying close and to providing and receiving love and support. There is no greater gift than the gift of time. That’s what we all seem to be missing nowadays. So, in giving that gift consistently, everyone feels loved and appreciated.

The family that takes the time to interact regularly is typically happy. They know they are part of a tribe, and that’s essential in today’s chaotic world. To know that there are people whom you can count on—people who will have your back in times of need—is invaluable.

Now, go and plan something plan with your family, if you haven’t already.

Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Pittsburgh Parent: Spending Time Together—Benefits of Family Time
[2] Roots of Action: Integrity: How Families Teach and Live Their Values
[3] Beyond Blue: Healthy Families
[4] Esperance Anglican Community School: The importance of family time
[5] Brandy Drzymkowski: Spending Time With Loved Ones Reduces Stress
[6] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime
[7] The Family Dinner Project: BENEFITS OF FAMILY DINNERS
[8] Parenting NI: The Importance of Spending Time Together
[9] WNY Children: Family Game Night- The Benefits of Game Play
[10] Child Therapy Boston: The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child

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