The Power of Touch
I read a study recently that suggested parents touch their phone more often than they touch their kids. Makes you think doesn’t it? I mean you are probably holding your phone at this very moment. In my family, I’ve noticed everyone’s screen time has sky-rocketed over the previous weeks and that’s totally fine – after all, it is our only way of connecting socially outside our little bubble.
There has been growing evidence over the last few years that our children are not receiving enough positive nurturing touch. There are a few reasons for this. Unlike previous generations, parents are working more and that means children and parents simply don’t spend as much time together. One study concluded that parents only spend 45 minutes a day talking with their primary school age children. Now many children will have no problem getting across a monumental amount of information in this time! But others won’t. A shift in societal views on adults touching children also means there is a change in the ways in which we engage with our children. Don’t get me wrong – this is absolutely crucial for the protection of our children. But remember the backlash of that Victoria Beckham insta pic of her kissing her little girl on the lips? That’s the sort of thing I mean. And finally, there is of course the ubiquitous mobile phone in the hand.
I trained as a Massage in Schools Programme Instructor a few years ago and have had the amazing privilege of visiting local schools, teaching primary children the art of Story Massage – a gentle, friendly, over clothes, simple series of back, head and arm massage strokes that children practise on each other. Case Study schools in other parts of Scotland have reported that this Programme has had a massive impact, and especially, incidents of bullying have reduced markedly. Massage between children reinforces mutual respect and nurturing.
How does all this fit in to our current circumstances of living in lockdown? Well lets first think about all the sources of loving touch for our children at the moment compared to normal….it’s just you! In everyday normal life, your children will have physical connection with so many people (ironically the reason why they are the ones very likely to spread viruses): kisses for grandparents; holding hands with friends; hugs with special teachers; childminders patching up grazed knees; rough and tumble play with peers; sitting super close together; a teacher guiding their hands to draw or create; a sports instructor supporting new learning; the list goes on….. If our children weren’t craving touch before, then they certainly will be now.
I sometimes laugh at myself for suggesting that massage is the answer for everything! But actually, in this instance, it’s a pretty good shout. You could go to the extreme and read up on acupuncture points and reflexology for children, or you could just place a hand on your child’s back and draw some circles. Always ask permission before you start massage – this sets an important tone that the child is in charge of their own body.
Story Massage is amazing! At bedtime, choose a simple story like ‘Bear Hunt’ or ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ and with your fingers and hands, draw shapes and actions on your child’s back. With a little practise, siblings could try something similar together. Try drawing letters or numbers on your child’s back and see if they can recognise them; or see if you can imitate different animal footprints. Songs like ‘Incy Wincy’ are easy to create a back routine for too or ‘This Little Piggy’ and ‘Round and Round the Garden’ for little hands. And never underestimate the power of a hug! Research tells us that a cuddle ought to last at least 12 seconds to have a real positive impact – it takes this long for the oxytocin (the calm or love hormone) to kick in. Oh and I nearly forgot a very important benefit of all of the above! Parents who regularly massage their children experience better sleep quality which is just one indicator of the positive calming effect that nurturing touch can have on the whole family.
I am sharing more Story Massage ideas via Facebook in a group called Story Massage VIPs and I’m going Live on Facebook every Thursday evening at 6:15pm with a Story Massage. The Rainbow Massage was specially designed by the Massage in Schools Programme for online teaching and shall only be available during the lockdown period. For more information visit clairehoustonmassageandyoga on Facebook and www.clairehoustonbabymassage.com
Now, put down your phone and ask your child if they would like a massage….