Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

ECMMA: Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

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Movement Matters

After many years of making music with children, Eve Kodiak, M.M., became interested in the brain/body processes that underlie the learning process. As an Educational Kinesiologist, she now works with people of all ages, using music and developmental movement to create positive change. Eve can be found in her office at The Lydian Center for Innovative Medicine in Cambridge, MA, or at home in New Hampshire, writing and recording. Her CD/book sets include Rappin' on the Reflexes and Feelin' Free, which combine developmental movements with songs, raps, and narrations with music. Eve also performs and records as an improvising classical pianist. More information and articles on music and developmental movement may be found at www.evekodiak.com.

 
 
 
 

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.

Tonight You Belong To Me

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New Englanders can hear me in concert, Sunday, October 6 at 2 PM at the Newton Free Library, 330 Homer St., Newton, MA, FREE! I’ll be playing some excerpts from my upcoming CD Sleep Like a Baby, improvising a new suite with the audience, and performing Ravel’s Ma Mere L’Oye in the original 4-hand piano version with Karen Melamed-Smith.

And for those who can’t make it – watch my website; clips will be posted soon.

Youtube, Sept. 17, 2013: Tonight You Belong to Me (Cover) - Me and my 4 y.o. “She thought she kept hearing fireworks and couldn't sleep, so we sang to keep her mind preoccupied. In the end, nothing competes with fireworks.”

This little home video has had more than three million views over the last three weeks. An adorable little girl in pajamas sings with her father, as he accompanies her on his ukelele. But it’s hard for her to complete even one phrase.

4 year old: “I know you belong - How about I say, ‘Be quiet!’ That means there’s a firework coming.”

Dad: mumbled assent. Strums again.

4 year old: “I know you belong – When we hear – say – SHHH! That means there’s a firework coming.”

Dad: “Ah, OK.”Strums again.

4 year old: “I know – When it goes” (she gestures near her face) “SHHH! That means there’s a firework here.”

 

People are still posting comments on Youtube. As of three minutes ago,

“Nice parents!”

“This is my new GO TO video for when I’m feeling blue.”

“Cute! Cute! Beautiful!”

But no one seems to get that this cute little girl is terrified. She is adorable, talented, and she has a dad who obviously has spent a lot of time singing and playing with her. It is quite lovely, that connection they have built together. But in this video her dad is not connecting with her emotionally – he’s trying to distract her.

We often make this mistake. We try, as this father did, to “preoccupy” the frightened child’s mind (or our own) with some distraction. But when the system is truly in fight or flight – as this little girl’s clearly is – distraction cannot work. Her fear of the fireworks is about as easy for her to ignore as a smoke alarm.

Our survival systems are effective because they prioritize survival. When they are beeping, they are really hard to ignore. This is because, if we were able to roll over and go back to sleep, we could die. So smoke alarms – and the Moro Reflex – are made to be psychically louder than anything else.

Watching the little girl, we can see the Moro Reflex – the fight or flight response – in action. Watch her eyes, fixating on the distance, searching for danger. Watch her hands coming up to stop the music so that she can listen for danger.

Between her moments of vigilance, the little girl is instinctively doing some of the things I suggest doing to release the Moro (or any active reflex):

1. She is holding her feet. I got a glimpse of her gripping the middle of the arch – the place that pulls up when the calf muscles tighten (which they do in preparation for running away from danger). Holding this spot on the foot can help relax of the legs. This gives the brain the feedback it needs to begin to believe that the danger is over.

2. In the beginning, the little girl is rocking side to side. This movement enhances cognition – it helps signals to cross between the left and right hemispheres. This is what she does as she figures out what to do about the fireworks. 

3. Later, once she has her plan in place (“when I say SHHH! that means”), she rocks back and forth. This moves signals between the back of the brain, where the survival system is lodged, and the frontal lobes, the seat of executive function. This is a way of bringing consciousness to bear upon a problem, releasing anxiety and overwhelm.

Rocking back and forth and singing with her dad works pretty well – the little girl actually gets through a couple of phrases. But then– her hand goes up in that arresting Stop Everything! gesture. “There’s a truck outside.” Eventually, she seems to get into the song. But as soon as it is over – the hand goes up. “SHHH!”

That’s the way the video ends.

My conclusion is not, like her father’s, that nothing competes with fireworks. My conclusion is that competition is not a successful strategy for calming a child.

Here’s what I would have done, had she been my daughter:

1. I would not videotape her. There are many reasons for this, the primary one being that, when someone is terrified, turning the experience into a performance is not likely to change the terror. It may drive it underground. But it will pop back up in the end – as this father discovered. (And I do admit to feeling a little voyeuristic watching something this private. And a little weird about three million people believing that this child’s terror is “cute.”)

2. I would not deny her reality. If you want to bring someone out of a place, you have to be willing to go there. You can’t take someone by the hand and lead them out of the forest if you refuse to acknowledge the forest.

3. I would do something authentically comforting. This child was showing us what she felt was comforting – she was doing it herself! Holding her feet, rocking. So I would probably hold her feet, and rock her, and hum, or say whatever came to me to say - probably something like, “I will protect you, you are safe here with me.”

4. I might ask her to tell me all about the fireworks. One of the best ways to release fear and tension is to let the child talk about it while they are being rocked, or while you are holding their feet, or smoothing their hair, or some other rhythmic motion they can feel. That way, the inner world of fear can be dissipated in the outer world of expression and relationship and physicality. But sometimes bringing up the problem reactivates it, so this method has to be used with discretion.

5. If the child won’t be held, I hold the space. When our own hearts are in coherence – peaceful, compassionate – that energy propagates outward. It is calming simply to be in the presence of someone who is calm. I would probably use the Brain Gym activity Hook-Ups (see Movement Matters, Sept.10, 2010 for details) which is a fast track to calm.

So, sweet dreams everyone! And when night terrors come – don’t be afraid go there – with a calm heart. Rocking and humming and reassuring can help both parent and child.

Sometimes going in is the only way out.

Comments

Joanie Calem Oct 01, 2013

Eve I agree with you totally, especially about #1!  This link had been sent to the CMN (Children’s Music Network) list a few days ago, and I immediately deleted it, feeling that it was really inappropriate to be watching/filming a child’s fear.  When you posted about your blog, knowing you and your general approach, I was curious to see what you had to say about it. I really appreciate your putting these thoughts out there!

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