Have you ever been asked “What are you good at?” or “What are your skills?” and had a hard time coming up with an answer? It can be hard to talk about ourselves, our strengths, our skills, and the resources we have within us to draw from. For youth who have experienced trauma, this can be even harder. They may experience major life changes they have no control over all while still developing their sense of self and identity. However, identifying skills and strengths, positive character qualities, and internal and external supports can be a method to help develop resiliency in the face of adverse life experiences. These are concepts that we focus on in our work at BuildaBridge, and recently, Liz de Lise and I were able to explore these topics through songwriting with youth who had experienced domestic violence.
Liz is a composer, musician, and performer, and I am a board-certified music therapist with a long history of songwriting and performance. Through BuildaBridge, we collaborated with Women Against Abuse, who provides Safe Havens, or temporary housing and free, comprehensive support, for survivors of domestic violence. Such support includes after school programming for youth, and we ran a songwriting program for children between the ages of 7 and 12 years.
In one of our songwriting sessions, we first proposed the idea of writing a song about inner strengths and skills, and Liz and I were met with a lot of shoulder shrugs and eye-rolls. At first, some of the kids shared silly statements about things they were good at, and then they began sharing qualities that showcased their creativity, their ability to help care for family members, and how they could be a good friend. Settling the lyrics into a song that Liz wrote the melody and chorus to, the youth created a few verses of all their wonderful strengths they felt brought them pride. We played the song over and over again, the singing growing louder, the dancing more pronounced, and the instrument playing more jubilant. By the end of the session, it was impossible not to be smiling with all of the bright, positive energy. We share their lyrics with you in hopes that you, too, can feel like you “can do anything!”