Touch is one of the first senses developed in humans. Touch can communicate a thousand words and sentiments without a single sound. For children, who may not be able to communicate with their words for various reasons, communication and healing through touch can be extremely comforting, effective and supportive.
Whether massage is used on its own or as a part of a treatment plan, it can be extremely helpful in supporting an infant, child or youth with anxious feelings or stress. It can also help with secure attachment and bonding with your little one.
Massage has been shown to not only lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) but also stimulate serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin helps stabilize mood and quiet the brain while dopamine helps with concentration and memory. There have been studies in children between 1-15 years of age that test saliva cortisol levels before and after massage finding that levels were lower after the massage.
You don’t necessarily have to send your child away for a massage either, it may or may not be in your budget and that doesn’t have to stop you. Some professionals really support the idea of spending this time connecting with your child. Depending on age and many other things, being the one to spend that time with your child may be a connecting exercise. For the younger children, here is an app called Storybook App that is a great tool for parents to dive in to infant massage. It utilizes massage, reflexology and relaxation techniques.
https://storybook-app.com/en/Storybook app for infant massage
Some times and events in life where it can be important to spend extra time and care checking in and helping children get in to their bodies can be around moving, parents separating, end of school time, going to a new school or starting a new grade or when they’re exhibiting some stressful behaviors.
If you’re not sure if your child is experiencing stress, some signs are:
- Muscle tension
- Shaking/ trembling and heart palpitations
- Sweating/ flushing or feeling very hot or cold
- Feelings of choking
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Rapid breathing, feelings of shortness of breath or breath holding
- Difficulty concentrating
- Being easily startled
- Severe blushing
- Numbness or “pins and needles” in arms and legs
- Reoccurring headaches, stomach aches or backaches
- Sleeping difficulties
- Frequent toileting
Aside from supporting peace of mind in infant, children and youth, massage can also increase body awareness, physical development, neurological development, support sleep and regulate the immune system. There are many more benefits to massage in children and youth but we think this is enough info to make the case that it’s worth incorporating.