WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Being a middle school-aged child is tough enough in the 21st century, let alone living through a pandemic. It’s tough on parents, too, who are concerned about their child’s emotional wellbeing but are not sure how to start the conversation.

Some mental health experts believe parents and caregivers can be more proactive by relying on the power of music. One initiative, called Sound It Out, is doing just that.

According to the CDC, the pandemic has triggered a 31 percent increase in kids’ emergency room visits for mental health challenges.

“And we’ve seen these exponential increases in the proportions of young people between the ages of 10 and 14 who’ve reported symptoms of depression and anxiety,” Psychologist Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble said. “Both of those hover somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of our young people.”

Unlocking conversations with middle school-aged children about their emotions can be tricky.

Sound It Out” uses the power of music to help adults have conversations with 10 to 14 year-olds.

“Music is a way that allows our young people to communicate amongst each other and to communicate with the world around them. So this campaign builds on that,” Breland-Noble said.

The campaign features some of today’s recording artists who collaborated with middle schoolers to create music which focuses on opening up about emotions and experiences. A free website provides everything from caregiver guides to games which can help to interact with preteen and early teen children. Besides using music as a talking point tool, Sound It Out gives parents and caregivers an opportunity to listen.

“This idea of active listening, of nodding your head, of being silent but using your body language to express that you are engaged. That make people seen, valued and heard. And as a young person there’s nothing more important than that so that’s a part of it. We’re allowing our young people to feel centered and valued and cared for,” Breland-Noble said.

Experts say the value of listening is often more important than actually speaking.