Turn Up The Volume: Listening To Music With Your Kids Could Strengthen Your Bond

Parents have shared the songs they love listening to with their kids. 🎶

If you’re a parent whose teenagers spend hours with their headphones firmly in place, you may want to encourage them to unplug, then turn on some music the whole family can enjoy.

Now we’re not just telling you to get going on a family rave for nothing, it actually might do wonders for your future relationship with your son or daughter, according to a new study from the University of Arizona.

Researchers found that people who shared musical experiences with their parents during childhood - and especially their teenage years - report having better relationships.

“If you have little kids, and you play music with them, that helps you be closer to them, and later in life will make you closer to them,” said study co-author Jake Harwood, professor and head of the UA Department of Communication. “If you have teenagers and you can successfully listen to music together or share musical experiences with them, that has an even stronger effect on your future relationship.”

Singing out loud or dancing together to music is an added benefit.
Morsa Images via Getty Images
Singing out loud or dancing together to music is an added benefit.

To come to these conclusions, researchers surveyed a group of young adults, average age 21, about the frequency of which they engaged with their parents (as children) in activities such as listening to music together, attending concerts together or playing musical instruments together. Participants reported on their memories of experiences they had between ages eight and 13 and age 14 and older. They also shared how they perceive their relationship with their parents now.

While shared musical experiences at all age levels were associated with better perceptions of parent-child relationship quality in young adulthood, the effect was most pronounced for shared musical experiences that took place during teenage age.

“With young kids, musical activity is fairly common - singing lullabies, doing nursery rhymes,” Harwood said. “With teenagers, it’s less common, and when things are less common you might find bigger effects, because when these things happen, they’re super important.”

The key time for parents to enjoy music with their kids is their teenage years.
Hero Images via Getty Images
The key time for parents to enjoy music with their kids is their teenage years.

The research, published in the Journal of Family Communication, started as an undergraduate project by Sandi Wallace, who was a student in Harwood’s class in music and communication and is the lead author of the study. “I was interested in seeing if music, with all of its power and influence on society today, could perhaps influence and positively affect the parent-child relationship,” said Wallace. She and Harwood say two factors may help explain the relationship between shared musical experiences and better relationship quality.

This first is coordination - “If you play music with your parent, you might do synchronised activities like dancing or singing together, and data shows that that causes you to like one another more” - and the second was the way music may strengthen relationship quality is through empathy - “A lot of recent research has focused on how emotions can be evoked through music, and how that can perpetuate empathy and empathic responses toward your listening partner,” she added.

The authors said shared musical experiences with their children don’t have to be complicated, and can include simple activities like listening to music in the car together.

What music do you like listening to with your kids? We asked parents on Facebook. One mum said: “My five-year-old has a very eclectic taste: Her dad is a DJ who plays lots of house music and then she has me who loves a 90s pop song - her current favourite is the Spice Girls.”

Another mum explained she and her seven-year-old are currently obsessed with songs by Parry Grip or by Dog Zombies; her four-year-old is all about the movie songs, so they have a constant stream of Disney and Pixar songs playing and her two-year-old has recently taken to singing along with her to Elton John’s ‘I’m still standing’.

Other suggestions included Max Boyce, Kiss Black Sabbath by Pink Floyd, Metallica, and This Charming Man by The Smiths. Want to add any more? Let us know your ideas by getting involved in the conversation.

Staff from Making Music, a UK organisation for voluntary music with around 3,000 member groups, previously suggested songs to HuffPost UK that parents could sing with their kids.

1. ’Walking on Sunshine (Katrina and the Waves)

2. ’Happy (Pharrell Williams)

3. ‘What a Wonderful World’ (Louis Armstrong)

2. ’I’m Feeling Good (Nina Simone)

3. ‘I Wan’na Be Like You’ (from the Jungle Book)

4. ‘Nessun Dorma’ (from Puccini’s opera ‘Turandot’).

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