Thursday, October 11, 2012

Music as a Vehicle for Vulnerability

Submitted by Roni Gillenson

Music as a Vehicle for Vulnerability
by Staff, Site Director, On Campus Counseling Program

Think of a teenager listening to music and the likely image that comes to mind is a solitary figure with
earphones. Most adults appreciate the earphone part—after all, music that appeals to teenagers usually
carries far less appeal to those who are older.

But think back to the role that music played in your life when you were younger. Think back to the
song you listened to during your first date, or the prom, or when you felt sad or angry at the world.
Even decades later, thinking about these songs from our adolescent years evokes a wave of emotional
memories. That’s because music is intensely connected to emotions during the teenage period.
Adolescents form an intense and meaningful connection with music.

Now if we put music aside for a moment and ask most parents about their teenagers, they’d likely say
that they wish their son or daughter would be more emotionally open, more vulnerable. Although
they can text and talk with their friends for hours, teenagers switch to a telegraphic mode when
communicating with parents. It’s amazing how even the most complex of questions can be answered by
monosyllabic words: “How do you really feel about everything that’s been going on this year?” “Fine.”

But what if, as adults, we step up and meet teenagers where they’re at? If normal verbal conversation
doesn’t take us very far, maybe music is a better vehicle to get to the core stuff. There’s no easier way to
surprise a teenager and catch them off guard than by displaying genuine interest in their music. “What’s
your favorite song?” “What artist do you like the most?” Once your teen is convinced that this is not
some sort of a trap intended to disparage today’s music, you’ll be amazed at how open he or she will
get. Remember that lyrics are poetry, and analyzing and reflecting on them can lead to interesting
conversations, especially when it comes to songs about love, angst, political issues, loneliness, or any
other emotionally sensitive issue.

Don’t be afraid to compliment a song, or a lyric. And if you find something that you find powerful and
share your thoughts and feelings around it, your teenager will often step up as well.

Adolescent Counseling Services is a community non-profit, which provides vital counseling services on eight
secondary campuses at no charge to students and their families. To learn more about our services please visit the ACS website at or call Sabrina Geshay, LMFT, Site Director at Gunn at (650) 849-7919. ACS relies on the generosity of community members to continue offering individual, family, and group counseling to over 1,500 individuals annually. ACS provides critical interventions and mental health services, building a better future for tomorrow. If you are interested in helping to support our efforts, do not hesitate to call to make a donation. It goes a long way in helping teenagers find their way!

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