By Chris Taylor, MFT, Author "Back to Basics"
Music can take many forms, but at its root in every form it relays various emotions. Sounds and lyrics portray and talk about love, heartbreak, friendship, tragedy, happiness, sadness, and loneliness. It is the one form of art that is relatable no matter your age, gender, or race, or what you are going through. You can find music to fit your mood, attitude and want for self-expression.
Teenagers use music as self-expression too. Despite the internal desire and want to ‘protect’ your teen from what you may consider inappropriate and unsafe, you must control your response. This form of self-expression is important to their self-esteem and understanding and navigating their world; one filled with confusing emotions and times. If your teen is unable to talk about their feelings with you, or able to fully put their feelings into words, music and lyrics may help this process. As teenagers listen to music they analyze the sounds and lyrics and start thinking creatively, with that thinking they become more self-aware.
Sometimes music gives teens a sense of belonging, it makes them feel like they are part of a group because they share that general interest with others. Music can be a good basis for a friendship, and provide a good outlet for social activities with friends.
Ever wish you could have a spy to the inner workings of your teen? Good news! You do -- its music! You’re teen may be struggling with communicating with you, but if you listen to what they are listening to, you may find the clues you are looking for. Most teens aren’t hiding this form of self-expression, so overhearing it isn’t considered intruding. You can hear their struggles, or their triumphs written in the lyrics and notes, and then you can decide to follow up your findings with a conversation later.
If you are concerned that music, although not solely but in addition to other behaviors, is causing your teen to go down an undesirable path or maybe hangout with the wrong crowd communication is key. Talk about your concern with them and understand that you may receive push-back on the subject. It is important to not attack their music, but instead voice your concern for their behavior surrounding it (if any).
So while you may hear a sound that is displeasing, or words that don’t make sense to you, your teen hears something that is speaking to them, something they are relating to, or something that may just simply be making them happy. These are all what you must consider before you respond to their music choices; their art of self-expression and path to building self-esteem.