Massage doesn’t stop when a baby gets big enough to roll or walk away. Sometimes it seems like a relaxing massage is even more necessary when a child’s life gets more active. One mother from the United States said:
“As my children grew up, I looked for those quiet moments when they really appreciated a massage. Sometimes it was when we all snuggled up in bed. Sometimes it was when I was visiting with a friend and a child found my lap was free and crawled in for a rubdown. Or after a bath. Or when they were sick. My youngest, who is now 19, still likes me to give her a massage. And sometimes she gives me one, too.”
What can you do as a child gets older to continue nurturing touch?
The Active Baby
When a child learns to roll over, you may find that they become more challenging to massage. Their personal goal has suddenly become to be mobile, and that is what they care about most. Keep a few special toys just for massage, and pull them out to encourage your baby to be still a bit longer. Sing your baby a song as you massage, or attach a few simple nursery rhymes to parts of the body. Your baby will love repetition, and the sing-song quality of your voice.
When a child begins to crawl, you may need to simply massage what is easy to reach. Make the massage more fun by pulling your baby gently and playfully back to you, and using music and nursery rhymes. Look for your toddler’s most quiet and receptive time of day for the massage, such as after a bath, right before bed, or after a long day at childcare. Give them choices such as “Where shall I start the massage?”
Preschoolers often need imaginative stories or songs to keep them receptive to massage. You may need to do shorter strokes on the legs and arms, or position the child differently to do the massage. They may like it if the massage is connected with certain sports (“soccer player special”) or activities (“ballet dancer massage”) that encourage their imagination. Be aware and supportive of your child’s developing modesty, leaving underwear or clothes on when requested.
School Age Children
School-age children experience a lot of stress, and massage can help them think more clearly in class, relax during tests, etc. Often the older child will begin to talk during massage and tell you about their day and their fears and worries. Be a good listener as you give them a massage. You can use scented oils for children this age. And they may want to massage you too!
Teenagers vary from liking touch to wanting to be left alone, and this may change from moment to moment. Look for times when they are open to touch – sick, tired, emotional or affectionate, and offer to rub their shoulders or their feet. Perhaps they complain of growing pains or cramps, and are really asking for a little affection – beautifully expressed in a massage. If they refuse a massage, don’t take it personally, or consider it permanent. Tomorrow they may feel different.
The nurturing touch that you learn in your infant massage class can make a difference to your children throughout their life.