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If you love listening to music, why not share your passion with your grandchildren?
“Music is a wonderful way to connect with grandchildren because it provides an avenue that you can both travel,” says Lillian Carson, a doctor of social welfare and author of The Essential Grandparent.
Through the ages, music has brought people together at special occasions and momentous events such as weddings. “In most people’s lives, music is a powerful mechanism that motivates, energizes, and cuts across age groups,” says Al Bumanis, a board certified music therapist and communications director for the American Music Therapy Association.
Introducing some of your cherished tunes to a grandchild may provide a great catalyst for imparting information about your past.
“Kids love to hear stories about their families, so weave some of your memories into music to pique their interest,” Dr. Carson says. “For example, when playing a favorite big band song, tell the children that there was a world war going on when that tune was popular and how it affected your life.”
Music can also serve as a way to teach grandchildren about their culture.
“It is our job as grandparents to let children know that they belong to something greater than themselves, and music can help the younger generation connect to their roots and their heritage,” says Dr. Carson. “My husband still remembers his grandmother playing Irish songs on the piano.”
When you introduce your grandchildren to your music, be sure to take the time to listen to some of their favorite songs, too.
“Sharing music with your grandchildren should be a two way street,” says Bumanis. “Keep an open mind. Recognize that there is always a need for rebellion in a young person’s music. Jazz during the Flapper era was probably as notorious as some of today’s music.”
“There is no guarantee that you are going to like your grandchildren’s music, but it is an entry into their world. And if we enter their world, we have a better chance of connecting with them,” Dr. Carson adds. “If they like rap or heavy metal music, don’t be judgmental. Instead, ask your grandchildren to explain why they enjoy it and get them thinking about it.”
Grandparents can also learn the latest technological advances in music from their computer savvy grandchildren. “New technology is truly wonderful, and youngsters can use their know-how to download music for you to listen to,” says Bumanis.
Integrate harmony—literally—into your family by starting new traditions that embrace music. For instance, even if your family does not include any musicians, start a sing-along at holiday gatherings. Don’t just sing “Happy Birthday to You” at birthday parties. To encourage involvement, print copies of song lyrics so everyone can join the fun. (You or your grandchild can find lyrics online at http://www.songlyrics.com.)
“Music is a strong medium and a universal language that can help you communicate with grandchildren,” says Bumanis. “Music therapists provide many intergenerational programs, so we know from experience that music makes marvelous things happen between older adults and children.”
If you live far from your grandchildren, keep their energy close to you. Just ask your grandchildren to make a CD or a tape of their favorite music to remind you of them. Perhaps you and each grandchild can pick a tune that will serve as “your song.”
“Sharing music is a particularly effective way for long distance grandparents to connect,” Dr. Carson says. “When my children were young and went away to camp, I asked them to give me a tape of their favorite music. I listened to a lot of James Taylor and Joni Mitchell in those days!”