How does it feel when you experience massage? If you are like many, you have the feelings of stress washing away, the bliss of the soothing, positive touch, and the enjoyment that someone else is catering to your needs. Often times we think of massage as our own, personal one-hour getaway, but grown-ups aren’t the only ones that enjoy and benefit from massage. Children can also get tremendous benefits from massage therapy!
“Every child, no matter the age, should be massaged at bedtime on a regular basis," says Tiffany Field, Ph.D., of the Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Florida.¹ Children benefit from soothing, positive touch as early as birth, as touch is the first sense to develop. This positive touch can help children learn to trust and learn to enjoy positive touch by others.
The techniques used for children will vary, just as they will with adults seeking different outcomes such as relaxation, flexibility, or mobility. Many of the same precautions and procedures apply to children as they apply to adults, but typically an adult is present at any sessions under the age of 16 to 18, and massage sessions are often shorter. Sessions for infants typically last 10 to 15 minutes, small children 15-20 minutes, and older children around 30 minutes. As children get older, their bodies can handle longer lengths of massage and bodywork.
“I give each of my children, ages seven, eleven, and fourteen a massage at night before bed. It helps them relax and reset before another day of school and activities. It gives us time just to be together,” says Holly C. of Detroit.
There are some simple ways to integrate massage into your routine from a nightly parent-child massage to an all-out family spa day. Have you ever thought of having a family massage day? Or, for new moms and dads, have you thought of learning to do infant massage on your baby or toddler? It can be a fun and rewarding experience. Oh, and let's not forget parents of pre-teens and teenagers! Our older kids are often stressed and overscheduled with friends, extra-curricular activities, and sports. Massage therapists that are trained to work with infants and children can address those concerns in a safe, caring atmosphere.
While taking your child to a massage therapist for a session can be a great thing, especially if there are therapeutic needs to accomplish, some massage therapists offer training for parents so that they can give their children a massage, thereby promoting the bonding process between parent and child. For older “tweens” and teens, a massage by a qualified massage therapist can be used as an incentive or reward for good grades or going above and beyond in general.
¹Vanderbilt, Shirley. "Children and Massage: A Powerful Combination." Body Sense Magazine Spring 2003. Accessed online January 15, 2010, http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/470/Children-and-Massage.