We just got through a bought of illness in our home. Every time I get sick, I find it hard to remember what it was like to be healthy, which seems absolutely ridiculous, and even a small amount of normal functioning falls by the wayside.
So how, then, are we supposed to manage something difficult like music practice with our child when they or we ourselves are sick? After the last couple of weeks, here are some of my thoughts.
When Our Kiddo is Sick
I will say it a couple of times in this post because it is just so important. Do whatever you can to keep the routine going! If your child is feeling well enough for even just 10 minutes on their instrument, do it. Let them pick their favorite piece and then pick yours. While Otto was sick, this usually worked great because he knew he would only have to play for a short time. Don’t try to work on the hardest thing. Review pieces are great for this!
Sometimes illness is a lot more serious than this and practice truly isn’t possible. When this happens there are still a couple of options. This is a perfect time for listening to recordings of your child’s repertoire. It’s also a great time for inspiration. Pull up great professional performances on Youtube and enjoy. If all you’re able to do is snuggle on the couch, this can provide a much needed break from kids movies and be great motivation for your child!
When You (the Parent) are Sick
This may not be an option for everyone, but if at all possible, let someone else practice with your child. I let my husband take Otto to lessons and practice with him every so often even when we’re healthy, so this works out great for us when I’m feeling especially under the weather. My mom takes Otto to group class and obviously practiced with me when I was young, so she would also be able to practice with him. I completely understand that it may be difficult to give up control of practice with your child or that you may not have someone else to pass practice off to, but this is an opportunity to give yourself a little grace and some rest when you really need it.
Another option is to let your child practice alone. As soon as they are able to set up their own instrument, this becomes an option (Review pieces! Yay!) so don’t be afraid to use it. As a teacher, I talk all the time about how important it is to establish good habits, but I promise a day or two of practice on their own will not ruin them. I would not suggest having them work on the most difficult things during this time, but letting them play their favorite pieces or even taking a little time to create their own compositions gets them time time on the instrument and keeps the routine, which as I said before, is what I think is most important anyway!
Getting Back to Regular Practice
I’ll be honest, this part is the worst. There were definitely tears, from both of us, the day Otto and I had our first real practice after both being sick. This is totally a rip-the-bandage-off type of moment. The faster you can get back into it, the faster the battles will end. For really young children, it may be helpful to start with a short practice and then add 5 minutes every few days until you are back to your normal practice time. However, the longer Otto has played, I’ve found it easier to just jump back in all the way.
And I will say it one more time, the routine is the most important. Do everything you can to not skip a day unless you truly are that sick. The more you keep the routine, the easier it is to get back in if the routine gets off for some reason.
Hopefully you found something useful from our illness experience the next time sick germs invade your home. Do you have an ideas for keeping practice motivation when illness strikes?