Somebody said once that Ringo Starr wasn’t the best drummer in the world, and he wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles! I’m not sure about that. My musical knowledge isn’t that strong, I’m afraid. All I know is, if someone ever asked me what drummers I’d ever heard of, I’d say Ringo.

My daughter Ava started drumming lessons a few weeks ago. After her first lesson I was convinced she is going to be a superstar! She is already very cool, and being a drummer just makes her cooler. (I know; how is that possible?) It’s early in the process, but she’s enjoying the practice. After she’s done her drumming homework, we play some music for her and she finds the beat and drums along on her drum pad. She doesn’t have a drum set yet; we are seeing how things go, although I confess I’m looking forward to the possibility of getting hold of a couple of drums. I noticed a second-hand set in the music store that may have the requisite cool factor to belong to Ava.

Ava has always drummed to her own beat. She’s quiet but very loving. She doesn’t mind her own company but can give the very best hugs. She loves being at home but likes playing soccer with her friends too. Ava is Ava, and I couldn’t imagine her being any other way.

But not every child is as secure and self-assured as Ava.

Recent reports about child mental health are worrying. The last decade has brought increased recognition by health care providers of anxiety in young people. We know that untreated anxiety disorders are linked to depression and challenges in school. Yet all too often we—parents, teachers, neighbors, doctors—minimize or ignore anxiety symptoms.

The high levels of using social media is worrying to some child mental health experts. Researchers believe that young people’s self-esteem and confidence can be undermined by spending time on social media platforms, where they read negative feedback, wonder why they aren’t getting likes on their posts, or see images of the unattainable. Some even experience cyber-bullying. Young women are especially at risk of negative impact on their self-esteem and confidence.

We have our work cut out for us. For starters, here’s what we all can do—for every Ava.

  • If you see a child or teenager you think may be struggling with anxiety or depression, don’t assume it’s a passing moment. Stop. Be present. Listen.
  • Rather than minimizing anxiety, minimize comparisons. Affirm and encourage each individual child’s brilliance. It’s there, and we can all help it shine.
  • Create ways for children you know to practice being their best selves. Drum pads. Art pads. Writing pads. Saxophones. Athletic fields. Cooking messes. Pink paint on the bedroom walls—whatever it takes to engage with real life and relationships and build confidence.

All children have the potential to grow up with strong self-belief and to do well in the world with the right support. It’s our job to help them find their own rhythms and not be put off by the drum beats and critiques that can send them down dangerous paths when we aren’t paying attention.

So let’s pay attention and enjoy the music. I can’t promise that the next World’s Greatest Drummer is at your house—because I believe she’s at mine—but find out what greatness there is in the children in your life.



Antony Sheehan
President and CEO
Aspire Health Alliance