The benefits of choral singing for parents and children
I had the pleasure of writing an article for Your Child Magazine which appears in the April 2019 issue.
Previous studies have shown the benefits singing offers to elderly people and particularly those with dementia, but recently, a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry looked at 134 mothers with postnatal depression.
The women were placed into three groups- creative play, group singing and the usual treatments of family support and antidepressants. At the end of the 10 week study, it was found that the singing group reported an average 35% decrease in depressive symptoms. The women in the singing group experienced a much faster improvement of their symptoms than the other groups.
Something as easily accessible as a community choir could have huge benefits for new mothers in what can be an isolating and stressful time. We function better together, particularly when we are making music. Nothing forges social bonds faster than creating music in a group. Singing in a choir gives a sense of community- of belonging to something bigger than yourself. It creates empathy for different cultures as you explore music from all over the world. Music is truly a universal language.
Singing improves the mood by releasing endorphins and oxytocin which decreases feelings of stress, depression and anxiety. As well as the psychological benefits, the physical benefits are significant. Lower blood pressure due to the calming effect of singing as well as increased blood oxygen saturation due to the deeper breathing associated with singing. Singing also improves lung capacity, posture and memory.
The benefits for parents participating in a choir is huge, but imagine the benefits for their children in the same environment. Music plays an important role in child development. Studies have shown that musical experiences in childhood can accelerate brain development particularly in the areas of language and reading, social skills and emotions. Music can elicit emotions like happiness, sadness which can help children become in tune with their emotions and build solid social skills. Having children attend a child-friendly choir with their parents can help strengthen parent-child connections and build secure and trusting relationships. This helps in feeling more empowered as a parent which is particularly helpful for mums with postnatal depression.
In short, singing is good for you. Whether you sing in the shower, in the car or on the stage, the health benefits are significant. In the words of Australia’s champion to music, Richard Gill, “We teach music because it is unique and good. We teach music so that children can make their own music. We teach music because it acts in a unique way on the heart, mind, soul and spirit of the child, stimulating thought and imagination in very special ways.”