It’s not easy being a child in the 21st Century. Young people are so often bombarded physical and mental stresses, competitive pressures and expectations from home, schools and peers.
But positive touch has the power to encourage children to discover a quiet and healing place within themselves that can help them cope better with the anxiety and stress that is leading to many health and behaviour problems today.
In a society where touch is no longer considered the norm, surely it is vital to re-establish the importance of sharing nurturing touch within the home not only for the health and happiness of our own children but for future generations and society as a whole. However busy our lives, let’s make time to give our children a cuddle.
Touch as part of family life
In many cultures, touch and massage has been an integral part of family life for generations. In India, mothers traditionally massage their babies from birth, then when they reach three or four years old, they are given a weekly head massage. By the age of six or seven, children are sharing regular head massages with their parents and grandparents. Children are not formally taught to massage, they learn by experiencing the benefits of positive touch for themselves.
During the research for my first holistic therapy book, The Art of Indian Head Massage, I spoke to many people from India who recalled sharing massages within their families when they were children and teenagers. They remember it as a special time, an opportunity for communication, for sharing worries and anxieties, for relaying stories and experiences, for ‘bonding’ within the family home. Even through particularly busy times, the regular massage slot was always respected and appreciated as part of the family routine.
Make Your Child Feel Special
Children of all ages need to know they are special. Yet all too often we do quite literally lose ‘touch’ with our children when they reach school age and adolescence – which is at a time when, possibly, they are most in need of this gentle and nourishing touch that can communicate unconditional love and respect far more effectively than words.
The Oxytocin Effect
Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg, a Swedish researcher and author of The Oxytocin Factor, Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love and Healing believes that the feel-good effect of touch is linked with the release of oxytocin and other mood-enhancing chemicals during gentle massage. Although research is still on-going, Kerstin suggests that this release of oxytocin into the bodies of those giving and receiving gentle touch could be one of the reasons why touch has such a positive impact on countering the detrimental effects of stress and anxiety on our physical, emotional and mental health and well-being. And some exciting developments in Kerstin’s research show that those watching gentle massage also experience the feelings of peace and harmony associated with the release of oxytocin.
Story Massage for Children
One simple way of introducing positive touch into your family home is through story massage. Story massage involves the use of simple massage movements (through clothes), associated with words that build up an engaging story, so for example, tracing a large circle on a child’s back can depict the image of the world or the rising sun. Similarly, raking fingers down a child’s back can represent lion’s claws. Or a caterpillar could ‘walk’ around the palm of the hand, eventually coming to rest before emerging as a beautiful butterfly.
Story massage movements can be used to accompany favourite bedtime stories, nursery rhymes or stories about familiar activities such a baking a cake or playing football. The words provide a focus for the child’s attention and enable them to sit quietly and enjoy the many benefits of positive touch. Indeed, parents of children with ADHD have reported great surprise and pleasure that their children managed to sit still for so long!
To find out more about Story Massage and see videos of story massage in action visit www.storymassage.co.uk. There is also a new eBook on Story Massage – Once upon a touch… story massage for children. Full details on the website.
photo; Copyright, Mary Atkinson