Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Sound It Out With Dr. Regina Miranda
[00:00:05] PF: What’s up, everybody? This is Paula Felps, and you are listening to On a Positive Note, where I sit down with a songwriter, recording artist, or a music insider to learn how music can lift our spirits and heal our hearts.
Today, we’re talking with Dr. Regina Miranda about the Sound It Out campaign, which uses the power of music to help parents and caregivers support emotional wellness in young people. This remarkable program uses songs and lyrics to help kids open up about their feelings, as well as giving them tools for handling difficult emotions.
Regina, a professor of psychology at Hunter College, is one of the advisors for the program, and she’s here to tell us more.
[00:00:43] PF: Well, Regina, thank you for being our guest on On a Positive Note.
[00:00:47] RM: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
[00:00:49] PF: You are part of something that is so fascinating. When I found out about this campaign, I immediately had to dig in and learn more. Sound It Out campaign uses music as that entry point for talking about emotions. Can you tell us how that program works?
[00:01:06] RM: Yeah. So we know that mental health problems have been increasing in the US and including among children. Some kids and families tend to have less access, particularly youth of color, to mental health treatment or mental health care, health care in general. So Sound It Out is a program that uses music to help parents and caregivers have conversations with their kids about mental health and emotional wellbeing, with a specific focus on middle schoolers and youth of color. But really, it’s meant to be broader for all middle schoolers. But it targets the audience of middle schoolers.
[00:01:43] PF: How did this program come about, how it was developed? Then can you tell us how you became involved in it?
[00:01:49] RM: So it’s a partnership between the Ad Council and Pivotal Ventures. The way that I became involved, actually, I was referred by a colleague, Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble of The AAKOMA Project. So she got me hooked up with the Ad Council for the campaign, and it was an amazing opportunity.
[00:02:06] PF: Can you build out for us what all this campaign entails? Because there is so much to it. It has so many offerings. I was just blown away as I delved into it. Can you really explain how it’s set up and what all it offers?
[00:02:19] RM: So we know that learning to navigate our emotions is a fundamental part of being human. But it can be hard to have conversations and to really check in with our kids and know when to check in with our kids and how. So the idea behind Sound It Out is to use music, which is the universal form of expression. We know that even when people who speak lots of different languages, when we can’t communicate verbally, we can certainly have similar experiences when we listen to the same music and to the same songs.
We also know that kids listen to music, and music is a part of their lives, is a part of their experience. So the idea is to help caregivers have conversations with their kids by using music because it can be hard to know how to approach the topic. It can seem like a big deal to start talking about emotions and mental health. So sometimes, by starting small, with something that you can both relate to, that can open up bigger conversations about emotions and mental health.
The campaign features songs by four artists and lyrics with notes to the lyrics that the artists wrote. So kids and parents can go to the website, listen to the music, talk about the lyrics. It also features guides for parents to start conversations with their kids, games that they can play with their kids. So there’s music that they can listen to without lyrics and write their own lyrics, for example. Also, resources, if parents need additional crisis or mental health-related resources, they can find that information on the website.
More recently, Sound It Out launched a Conversation Starter Pack, which is a game that parents or caregivers and their kids can play together. It provides prompts and guides to talk about things like anxiety, stress, emotions, family support, racism, social media. So things that are relevant to the kids targeted by the campaign.
[00:04:15] PF: That Conversation Starter Pack, that will sometimes have them reference a song or a lyric that explains how they’re feeling. Can you kind of tell us what that’s all about?
[00:04:24] RM: So you can ask kids things like what’s a song that expresses how you were feeling today? What’s a song that makes you feel better after you have a hard day? Or what music are you listening to now? Why do you like that song? So this is just a way to get the conversation started, to find small moments with our kids and use that to open up bigger conversations.
[00:04:48] PF: How does that work? How can parents who are listening to this, how do you use music to really help children identify and to explain their emotions? Because, obviously, middle school, that’s a crazy time, and you’ve got things going on. You don’t understand. I mean, as adults, we don’t understand our emotions all the time, either. So how does music become this tool for helping them name and clarify their emotions?
[00:05:13] RM: Well, sometimes it can be hard to describe how we’re feeling. Sometimes, when we – I think many of us have had that experience that we were feeling a certain way, and then we listen to a song, and someone’s describing exactly how we’re feeling in the moment. So it’s interesting how the experiences that we have come to be associated with music, and music is such a part of our – It’s either in the foreground of our lives, or it’s like the soundtrack to our lives.
That’s what makes music so powerful as a form of expression and a way of relating to each other to talk to our kids about, “Okay, what is it that you like about that song?” For my daughter, for example, she doesn’t like the popular Taylor Swift song. She likes the more folksy, the slower ones. So expressing curiosity, what is it about that song that you like?
[00:06:04] PF: I think that’s what’s – Because songs are such an emotional touchstone. When we overlook that, we’re overlooking this huge opportunity for ourselves and, really, for all our relationships of learning more about that person, and what is it that appeals to you about it, and how does that express what you’re feeling. But especially, as you’ve discovered with Sound It Out campaign and the work that you’re doing, it is so powerful.
What do you see happen when children and adults start connecting with that music and using it as a tool, not just as background music?
[00:06:38] RM: It’s really about starting the conversation. It may not be music. It may be something else that they can relate to. So it could be a show on television. It’s just about starting that conversation.
[00:06:52] PF: What about adults who are non-parents? Like how do you reach a child? So let’s just say not all children have terrific parents, and not all children are receiving the love and the attention that they need and deserve. So what if you’re an adult who has a child like that in your circle? How do you then use some of these same talking points and use some of the music to be able to help them because there’s a little bit of a different area that you’re treading into?
[00:07:20] RM: Well, it’s geared towards caregivers. So not only caregivers who are parents, but it can be an adult in the person’s life. Even as a parent, it may not be the goal that your child speaks to you about what’s going on. Maybe there’s another adult in their life that they feel more comfortable talking to. But it’s about modeling and normalizing talking about our emotions.
Even if it’s a niece or a nephew or a friend, I think that one could use similar strategies. It’s really about being in the moment together and starting the conversation, finding an opening, and starting small. Then as you build that relationship, build to the bigger things.
[00:08:01] PF: I think you’re giving adults such great tools for using this to meet children where they are.
[00:08:09] RM: Sometimes, I wonder if the tools – I think the tools are just as helpful for parents to learn about themselves, and it is to learn about what’s happening with their kids and for kids to learn about themselves. The more we learn about ourselves and process our own feelings as parents, I think the more we can model that for our kids and then help them process what they’re going through and really normalize that what we’re going through, especially now.
So it’s an interesting time that we’re in because the pandemic is a collective stressor, and there’s a lot going on that’s tough for kids. It can be tough for kids to process. But at the same time, it’s made us more attentive to the importance of mental health. So it’s really a time when it’s become more acceptable to talk about how we’re feeling and when we’re not doing so well.
[00:08:54] PF: Yeah. That’s one reason this campaign is so effective and so perfect for right now. Because to be able to seize the moment of when everybody is going through something, whether it’s anxiety, depression, just outright fear that they’ve got going on. To your point earlier, I think adults will benefit from it too because even if you’re listening to your child, you’re looking at this – You’re going to answer it like, “Okay, this is what comes to mind for me, and this is what I think, and this is how I feel.” I think it’s a terrific tool for everyone to be able to use at any age.
You mentioned about facilitating the conversation between a music star and teens. Tell us how that whole process worked.
[00:09:36] RM: So these were musical artists and teens who had never met. There was a national search for these teens. I’m not sure exactly how the search happened, but these teams were selected, and I met with them first. I’ve met with them and their mothers first, and then I also met with the artists, and then we had conversation together. These conversations happened in English and Spanish. Then the artists turn those into original songs, and the songs are on the website as part of the campaign.
[00:10:08] PF: Then with the game aspect of it, where you have music without any lyrics, and parents and children can work on that together, how does that work? Because if you have parents who are like, “I don’t know how to do this. I’m not sure. I’m not a writer. I’m not a songwriter,” tell us how they can actually use that.
[00:10:27] RM: So it can be awkward. Sometimes, when you’re trying new things that you’re not used to trying, it can feel kind of artificial or like you’re faking your way through it. But I would encourage people to work through the awkwardness. If you think about it, trying a new thing that you’ve never done, like trying to write a song, it’s kind of like trying to talk about emotions that you’re not used to talking about. It’s really trial and error. At first, it’ll just feel weird doing it.
But I think as you get comfortable, something always comes out of it. Whatever it is that comes out of it, at least it’ll be a conversation starter, and it may be that like, “Ah, I’m not really – Nothing really comes to mind.” But it’s really about the experience of doing an activity together.
[00:11:09] PF: Yeah, that’s wonderful. Then what does the Ad Council hoped that the overall outcome of this campaign is?
[00:11:17] RM: So decreasing the stigma about talking about our emotions and mental health, and really normalizing talking about mental health and our emotions, and also encouraging people to seek help if they need it. Learning more about what some of the warning signs are when kids may need additional help and then encouraging help seeking by parents.
[00:11:36] PF: You give a lot of resources on the site. So I think that’s what’s so wonderful about it, too, is you open this door and give them all these different entry points through music and then also lead them into here’s where you can get help. Here’s where you can go for more information.
[00:11:52] RM: Yes, exactly.
[00:11:53] PF: I think it’s so well done. All this month at Live Happy Now, we’ve been talking about going back to school and the hectic pace that it’s added to us and the additional emotional stress. So based on your experiences, how can we use music to kind of help us get through this really crazy time, as we settle into our new routine and going back to school?
[00:12:15] RM: It’s okay to be nervous and maybe excited at the same time. So talking about what are some things that you’re looking forward to about the start of the year? What are some things that are kind of scary about the start of the year that you’re not looking forward to? Is there a song that you’ve been listening to that reminds you of what it’s like to start school or what it’s like when you don’t know what to expect? Or is there a song that helps you feel comforted when you are anxious or when you’re afraid? What is it about the song that you like?
[00:12:47] PF: That’s excellent. Well, thank you so much for coming on and talking about this. Again, this program is just fantastic. I was really excited when I learned about it. Really excited to sit down and talk with you. Thank you for all the work that you’re doing to help make this happen.
[00:13:02] RM: Thank you. I’m happy that I had a chance to come on, and I appreciate your time.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:13:09] PF: That was Dr. Regina Miranda, talking about the Sound It Out Campaign and how music can support emotional wellness. If you’d like to learn more about the campaign or download a free Conversation Starter Pack, just visit livehappy.com and click on the On a Positive Note podcast link.
If you’d like to work on some song lyrics of your own, why not do that in Live Happy’s On a Positive Note journal? This 250-page notebook offers inspiring quotes and tips, along with plenty of room for you to add your own thoughts. You can find it on sale now at store.livehappy.com.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of On a Positive Note and look forward to joining you again next time. And until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.