Recently a client came to me with questions about whether or not a massage would be appropriate as a gift for their teenage daughter who had never received a massage. She knew both of her parents were clients of mine and was interested in the process and as the oldest of all their children, they were looking for a special way to validate all her hard work this year and acknowledge her journey into adolescence.
I have worked with children, pre-teens and teenagers (my 2 year old son receives some sort of light massage almost daily and has since he was born!) and I find that massage can be incredibly empowering for them. Most children and teenagers carry stress in their bodies that as parents we aren't necessarily aware of. Stress from academics, peers, sports, even just carrying large, heavy book bags that tax them ergonomically can create tension the same as it would in an adult body. Massage for a child or pre-teen has different elements in that I don't offer deep tissue and in all cases of massage for someone under 18 there is parental consent and very clear communication between everyone including the parents about what to expect. Here is one other reason why I advocate for massage for children and teenagers - it can help empower them in their own bodies in a way that can help them in the future.
Does that sound strange? It shouldn't - most of us don't find our way into the world as young adults with very clear confidence or self expression when it comes to our own bodies. Building or having a safe space to communicate about what is bothering us (physically, emotionally, etc.) away from your immediate family can be a huge blessing. Learning that kind of communication about what is safe touch, what is good or bad feeling in regards to pressure or tension, what is happening when we feel more relaxed and aware vs. carrying tension constantly, all can empower a young person to really know their own body, what they need, and then how to ask for it. Most young people as well are curious about technique and anatomy so they end up learning in the sessions about how their bodies are put together, how they work, and that can spark different ideas for learning or education in the future. They also gain a wider vocabulary and access to new ways of communicating what is happening within themselves and much like a young child, the more open and clear we can be with our communication, the less frustrated we get. When we have more words and avenues to truly explain what is happening in our minds, spirits, and bodies, we can connect on a deeper level. This can even enhance the bond between parent and child as well if each has a healthy respect for the other as an individual who needs to be able to communicate their own story.
I was a teenager the first time I had a massage, I was lucky that both of my parents were open to alternative (at that time it was more out of the box) treatments like acupuncture and massage. I vividly remember being interested in all of the muscles, how they worked, and how much better I felt after a massage and in the end that desire to help others took me back to massage school after my Bachelors Degree.
Our children belong with us for a little while but ultimately not to us, they belong to themselves. I think that by allowing them the freedom and independence to own their own sensations and bodies in a safe therapeutic space, we give them an empowering gift that they can take with them into adulthood. Last but certainly not least, they learn what self-care is, how to value taking time for themselves and they will have another tool in their pocket when they are out in the world if they need to fall back on for injury, stress, or general wellness. If you have any questions about how massage might benefit a member of your family I would love to discuss this with you!
Happy Sunday everyone, have a beautiful week.