Touch is the first sense to develop. It is an essential part of our lives from the moment we are born. Infant massage is common practice in many African and Eastern cultures and is used to soothe, heal, and relax little ones (at times accompanied by scented oils and herbal remedies).
Massage is an excellent way to bond with our children while giving them peace of mind and a sense of trust. The Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Florida has conducted many hours of research on the subject of children and massage. When asked if parents should give massages to their children, researcher Maria Hernandez-Reif, Ph.D., said “Absolutely, a daily massage at least. That’s what the studies show. Regardless of whether it’s an infant, a child with an illness, a preschooler, pregnant women, or the elderly – no matter who we studied we have found that massage benefits all age groups and individuals of different conditions.”
When we think about stress, we often associate it only with adults. However, young children are prone to stress as well – unfamiliar people, babysitters, schools, illnesses, divorce, and more can cause a child to experience stress. Massage has proven to be a great way to beat stress for children. Hernandez-Reif stated that one of the consistent findings in the studies is a reduction in stress and stress hormone levels.
When it comes to a child’s behavior after receiving regular massage therapy, the studies found that children were happier and in a better mood. They appeared more relaxed, calm, and oftentimes fell asleep during the massage session.
Massage allows the child to gain a positive feeling toward touch, which will benefit them throughout their entire lives. From infants, to young children, to teens, massage therapy promotes a sense of comfort through improved respiration, circulation, digestion, elimination, coordination, and self-confidence, as well as relief for any aches and pains. After just 15 minutes of massage, preschoolers have shown better intellectual and manual performance, slept better during naps, were less likely to be overactive, and had better behavior. For teens, massage can help balance hormones and relieve anxiety.
There are a number of resources to turn to that can help you learn how to give your child a massage yourself. For older children, a licensed massage therapist may be preferred. Touch is a crucial part of a child’s development and well-being, and should be incorporated into their daily routine.