for the Growing Child
A Foundational Tool for Education
In the first seven years of life, the most nourishing feelings you
can give your children is lots of joy. Joy makes them feel warmth
and love which is the basis for spiritual growth. Massage for children
is a nourishing activity you can share with them from birth and
onward in your relationship.
Touch is the first language children learn. Massage is a conscious
form of that language. Learning how to touch and receive touch is
learned early on. Asking permission to be touched creates a foundation
for self-esteem, which is one of the greatest gifts we can give
our children. We must teach our little ones to find their anchor
so they can better direct their lives in the future.
As a long time child educator and massage practitioner, I recognize
the potential that massage has in the area of family education.
The literal meaning of the word education is "to draw out from
within." To me, education means "the right thing at the
right time in support of inherent growth."
In the beginning of life, infants are fully open to receiving a
complete massage. They love long, smooth, soothing strokes. This
teaches them how to relax and helps them sleep more deeply. This
also stimulates and increases the myelination around the nerve pathways
and improves sensory organization.
As infants grow into independence from their primary caregiver,
they start to crawl and move away from their protector. They are
no longer interested in lying prone during a relaxed, alert moment
for any considerable time. They want to be on the move and seek
all kinds of new stimulation, which is crucial for their development.
The best movement for an active baby is crawling. The context of
infant massage needs to shift. Infant massage needs to adapt to
the baby's new needs. Some people turn massage into a game of chase,
letting the baby crawl away and then stroking the back and legs
as a way of catching up. Singing songs that incorporate physical
play and massage can be a creative approach to massage for the crawler.
Bath time is also a good time for massage. Massage before bedtime
helps the baby relax.
Toddlers are interested in exploring their world. At this age, parents
must find moments here and there to share massage with the toddler.
Five minutes a day is better than nothing at all. Games with rhyming
verses are the best way to capture the toddler's interest. The important
thing to remember is to keep the mood light and easy. (Avoid massage
if you are not feeling cheerful yourself.) Sharing massage must
be a pleasurable activity that the little ones do with their caregiver
in trust, love and willing participation.
Standing up and walking are the main focus at this time in a child's
life. Think about the implications around walking a straight line
for the first time. What is the inward feeling they experience?
Full control and mastership over the body is related to mastery
of the self, indeed a lifetime work.
During this time of relishing the new and vertical experience of
the world, children develop autonomy and continue to separate from
the caregiver. One way they do this is by saying "no."
If your offer of massage is rejected, respect their choice. Receiving
massage should be an aspect of life in which they do have a say.
When you respect them, they respect you. Remember, children learn
through imitation. Your self-discipline becomes the child's self-discipline.
Sometimes little ones ask for massage in a code. For example, they
might say, "I have a tummy ache." Then you can offer a
tummy massage in a playful way.
With the pre-school aged child, massage can slowly return to its
original form where the child can again receive while lying down
in a restful mood of quiet alert. Children at this age like to pre-tend
they are infants. They like to relive the memory of receiving massage
as an infant. Many early school aged children go through a phase
of nostalgia for their life as a baby.
Creating stories with young children, who can now speak freely,
is great fun. Their imaginations are so alive the make-believe world
sometimes takes precedence over the actual world. All kinds of scenarios
can be acted out together. Try growing gardens on the child's back
and play with varied weather patterns. Make pizza on the child's
tummy with strange and exotic toppings. Make bread with the child's
arms and legs. How about an insect parade? You can go as far as
both your imaginations will take you.
As children reach school age, they enjoy massage lying on their
stomach rather than face up. It is relaxing and they feel more protected.
A good time for massage is after they come home from sport practice,
or if you see they have had a bad day.
All children up until puberty rely on their tactual, kinesthetic
experience for gathering information and connecting with the world.
They still bond through touch, so touching remains a crucial form
of communication between them and their caregivers. It helps them
to remain close to their caregivers in a loving relationship. In
turn, this becomes a basic source of their self-esteem in the future.
With the onset of adolescence, real modesty begins to surface. This
is an important personal boundary to respect, especially while sharing
massage. Leaving clothing on when a child at any age doesn't want
to be exposed is conducive to a lasting, communicative relationship
based on trust and love. Respect this boundary and keep away from
body parts associated with sexuality. It is important to keep these
boundaries intact as they grow into adulthood. At this time keep
massage simple. Rub only their feet, shoulders, hands and head.
Sore feelings about challenging situations can also be relieved
through massage. Give the child personal space to feel without judgment.
It is important for healthy communication during these moments when
the child needs to express feelings. Avoiding eye contact by massaging
the back is a great way to respect the child's personal space as
he or she talks about issues. It is easier to talk about worries
with the face turned away from you.
The few things about massage that never change are asking permission,
connecting through the heart, sharing safe and playful physical
contact, experiencing muscular and emotional relaxation and establishing
a bond of trust. The life-long gifts your children receive from
massage while they are growing up are a solid sense of complete
body awareness and a healthy sense of intimacy. They know what caring
touch is like and they know how to respect another's boundaries
by asking permission and respecting that person's degree of openness.
One of my mentors in education once told me something that made
a very profound affect on the way I viewed "relationship."
She told me that real sex education begins in Kindergarten when
children learn the sacred meaning behind no, please and thank you.
May you truly deepen your interpersonal connections with your family
by experiencing this spiritual journey of growth, love and communication
"I know touching was, still is and always will be the true
revolution." -Nikki Giovanni
Visit the Christine Breese website to read articles on consciousness and awakening, visit University of Metaphysical Sciences Video Satsangs to see talks on spiritual subjects. Read articles on Wisdom of the Heart Church. Visit Starlight Journal for blogs, newsletter, and forums on spiritual subjects. Visit Christine Breese's Metaphysical Sciences youtube channel to view free video satsangs.