Looking after ourselves is very important because as the saying goes ‘You can’t pour from any empty cup’. Time out, meditation, yoga, mindfulness, massage etc are becoming more widely embraced as we begin to understand, and value, the importance of self-love and self-care.
I was nearly 30, and had just left my husband of 10 years, when I embarked on a journey of self-care and self-love. I’m still on that journey (I guess we never actually finish it) and one of the things I thoroughly embraced was a weekly massage. Not only did it relieve my aching muscles and tension, it opened up a world of healing for me. I was taking time for myself, doing something just for me, and that was an empowering feeling. My massage therapist was great at listening and, although she’s not a qualified counsellor, it really helped to just talk to another adult. She was amazing.
If adults benefit so greatly from massage then it seems natural that children would too. Massage has many benefits such as improved circulation, blood flow, discomfort/pain relief but there are some lesser know benefits which are equally as important as the physical ones.
Massage is an intimate form of touch and so is only performed by mum, dad or close relative/carer who is involved in the child’s life. It is an amazing way to build your bond with your child. By looking into their eyes and listening to them giggle and babble to you during massage is a heart melting moment which you will never grow tired of.
When you offer massage to a child you give them the option of whether they want to receive it. It’s called the ‘permission sequence’ and its an invaluable message about safe touch. When we allow a child to decide if they feel like a massage at that moment you’re giving them permission to say yes or no depending how they feel. It gives them the authority over their body to make the decision as they grow older.
As you massage, you can identify parts of the body “These are your toes/fingers/belly button” and explain what you are doing. This promotes early language development. You child’s brain is a sponge and absorbs so much information in the first 12 months. Children learn the majority of the early language skills from their parents by listening to the sounds you make, the shape your mouth makes, the correlation of words to objects that you point out and massage is a perfect way to begin doing this.
Massage has been identified as a beneficial to children with special needs and medical conditions who have touch aversion. Autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder can produce touch aversion where the child flinches at being touched, embraced and held. You can introduce massage very slowly and carefully, using the child’s cues to begin and end massage, to see how you go. For children with medical conditions, the touch they receive is associated with doctors, hospitals, needles and pain so utilising massage as a nice touch can counteract some of their touch aversion. When your child requires a procedure, treatment or diagnostic test you can use massage to relax, calm and take their mind off what they’re going through.
As part of a massage session, lymphatic exercises are taught. This involves crossing limbs over, never ever past the point of resistance, to cross the mid line. So, opposite arm and leg to meet each other, crossing the arms across the body. This helps to develop pathways in the brain, helps both side of the brain to talk to each other, develop fine motor and cognitive skills. As an Early Childhood educator I have found that children who find it difficult to cross the mid line may struggle with early reading and writing skills.
These are some lesser known but just as important benefits of infant/child massage. Contact me if you’d like further information or like http://www.facebook.com/LisasSanctuary for further info and tips.