When to start child massage
If you are a parent or a grandparent and you are interested in massage, you have many opportunities for supporting the development of your childrenIf the child has received baby massage, it is likely to be used to touch and probably already has the right body image and body control
A child that has little experience of tactile stimulation might need to get used to receiving a child massage, but will eventually enjoy and benefit from it as much as the child with previous massage experienceThere is no particular deadline for starting child massage; whenever you feel like it, or there is a need, you can begin.
When not to massage
There are occasions, however, when one should not give a child massageFirst, if the child is ill or is feverish, it should not receive a massage, and secondly, of course, when the child does not want one.
Massage is always on the terms of the childIf you turn down, you have to accept itThe child may be reluctant towards massage when it beginsAmong others, I know of one boy who did not want to participate when it came to massage
If he observed the daily massage activities on his siblings previouslyEventually, one day he decided to take partThen, he wanted to do it again and againIt is wise to let the child decide for itself when it is ready to participate in a massage
Even if a “no” always is a “no,” one should never stop askingOne day the “no” can mature to a “maybe” and eventually transform to a “yes.” There is yearning for contact in every child.
Where to best perform child massage
The child massage can perform wherever the child can lie down to restA mattress on the floor, a bed, a sofa, or a massage table will doIf the parent has back problems, the massage table is the best choiceA mattress on a table may do as well.
How to start
For parents initiating massaging, a natural way to begin is to combine it with the evening proceduresIt is a good way of relaxing after a hectic day, and it prepares the child for a sound sleep
If you are in the habit of telling a story, you can catch two birds with one stone by telling a massage storyDifferent strokes are done on the back of the child simultaneously as a story to tell.
Another convenient occasion to include massage is after a bathOil can be applied, and the child can massage as an extension to the bathing routine.
Grandparents can even massage their grandchildren when the right opportunity occurs
If family get-togethers are rare, being massaged by a grandparent can become a ritual each time the child and grandparent spend time togetherAnd even if not given regularly, massage will strengthen the sweet ties between grandparents and grandchildren.
How to deal with children with special needs
Some children have special needs due to congenital or acquired physical and/or psychological weaknesses or damagesThese may vary in severity—most children with a handicap benefit from massage
For kids with tactile hypersensitivity or extreme hyperactivity, it may be more difficult initiating massage, but it is nevertheless just as good for them.
Tactile defence, which occurs in children with, for example, brain damage or autism, may reveal itself through the child’s not wanting to have body contact
The child does not want to participate in tactile games; it does not want to wash or cut nails and hair; it has self-destructive behaviour such as biting and scratching itself, and it does not like to wear clothes, or it wears clothes in many layers
Children with tactile defence can experience touch as unpleasant or even painfulNaturally, hypersensitivity may even occur due to negative tactile experiences.
If the child cannot tolerate skin to skin contact, one may try to find another form of touch that is acceptableOften stronger pressure and stroking work for a shorter duration, and sometimes a light touch may be the only technique that is accepted
In the beginning, try holding and massaging on top of the clothesIt is best to try out different tactile tools as complements in the processIf you start touching the child regularly within its borders of tolerance, these may slowly widen
The positive effects of the sedation give feedback and whet the appetiteBy regular tactile stimulation with an acceptable touching technique, the nervous system tends to correct the unbalance that has ruled, and the hypersensitivity decreases
Children who have previously withdrawn from child massage body contact, may after a longer period of regular tactile training, manage to receive and enjoy the massage with oil on the skin
In an American study where autistic children received massage, the hypersensitivity in the children decreased, and they became more attentive and related better to their teacherAttention spans also increasedChildren with high muscle tone and spastic muscles usually benefit greatly from massage
The mother of an active and happy seven-year-old boy with cerebral palsy took part in one of my classes in child massage for parents and caregiversShe asks to rate the muscular tension in her son before and after the massageThe son made a rating of himself
The mother told me about the son’s response: “He feels great after the massageWhen I ask him if he can get more relaxed, he says noHe rates himself to be a ten (on a scale from one equaling very spastic to ten equaling normal muscle tone).
Also, his elimination has never worked better than it has during these weeks of regular massage.”
Children with DAMP (Deficit in Attention, Motor control, and Perception) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) may need to be physically active before being touched or massaged
Remember, it should be on the terms of the childIt is important to observe the reactions of the child and to approach the situation with the greatest sensitivity
Find the places and the kind of touch the child accepts and start thereLet the child lead the wayOnce confidence establishes, you may eventually be able to meet skin to skin.
When massaging children with special needs, it is advisable to create a routine and do the massage accordingly
The same routine should repeat every time so that the child can recognize and predict what is comingIn this way, order and safety created for the child, which is important for most children with brain damage.
Spina Bifida is something some children are born withThe symptoms are loss of sensitivity and muscular function in the lower extremities and usually also in the pelvis
These children are bound to a wheelchair but differ in no other way from normal kids(It might be good to remember that all children, despite handicaps, are more alike than they are different from each other)
Despite the lessened or lost tactile sensitivity in the lower extremities in children with Spina Bifida, leg massage can be beneficial as well as enjoyable to them
Due to decreased circulation, the legs easily get swollenMassage can help increase circulation and prevent swellingThere is no reason to exclude paralyzed body parts on someone with functional or sensitivity loss
The body still is a whole and should be treated as a unity, including all partsAppreciative receivers of massage are children with Down’s syndromeOne problem these children have is that they stick out their tongue and drool a lot
Massaging the face, especially around the mouth, may, to some extent, reduce the problemIn children with Down’s syndrome, low muscle tone is also displayed frequently through hyper-flexible joints.
If the child has difficulties controlling its body movements due to low muscle tone, massage can be given with a focus to stimulate, tone, and activate the muscles
This can achieve through stroking towards the heart in a faster tempo than usualPumping pressures over the muscles and light Tapotements (hacking) can also do.
In studies, massage has proven to help children with asthma, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritisThe asthmatic children experienced improved pulmonary functions, had fewer asthma attacks, and were less anxious and sad, after having received massage.
The kids with diabetes, who were massaged by their parents, also had lower anxiety and depressionBesides, their glucose levels decreased to the normal range after one month of massage
Positive effects were seen in children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, tooBesides less anxiety, they also experienced less pain, especially at night, and the morning stiffness lessened in the kids as wellIn all studies, parental anxiety and feelings of helplessness also decreased.
A child doesn’t need to be diagnosed for it to need tactile stimulationEvery child that seems nervous or anxious is clumsy or has delayed motor skills, has late speech and language development, is gloomy with little appetite, or is unhappy and crying a lot, needs warm, safe, aware adults who touch it.
How long to continue with child massage
As a parent, you can massage your child from the time it is a toddler through childhood and into adolescence until it leaves the nestThe massage techniques can be changed to suit the growing body of the child
The chest stroke should be excluded for girls after the age of eight, or earlier if they say so since some enter adolescence earlyIt is important to support the integrity of the child and let it own his or her body
It is always with great respect and honor we touch and massage small children as well as older ones.
Each session may be anything from 5 minutes to at the most 45 minutes—the upper limit state to avoid overstimulation of the nervous systemAs the child gets older, you may stretch the limits a little
It is preferable, though, to do short, frequent massages instead of long, infrequent ones.
How to prepare for child massage
Once you have decided to perform a child massage, the room should prepareDim the lights, make sure the room is draft-free and warm, light some candles, and put on some peaceful music
It is good if the music is slow and harmoniousIf you are massaging a child with brain damage, it is better to start without musicLater, when the child knows the routine, music can be addedIn any case, the music should not be too loud.
Make sure your hands are clean and warmTake off any rings, jewelry, or watches that could scratch the skin of the childIt is also best to have short fingernailsRoll-up long sleeves that could be in your way.
In the beginning, the massage can execute on top of the clothesAs soon as it feels comfortable, you may offer the child a massage with oil on the skinTo choose the oil, you can use essential oil to stimulate the smelling sense
A few drops are dropped into an aroma lamp, or mixed directly in with the oilMandarin or lavender essential oils seem to suit most childrenIf the child has brain damage, it is best to avoid essential oils since the child might be hypersensitive to smells and odor.
For younger kids, a special massage blanket and pillow can make the massage moment even more special.
As the giver of child massage, you should be calm and focused and have a great will to touch with a glowing, parental heart.