We are finally getting ready for bed, when there is a little spat between sisters and that’s it.... 'K', my almost 9 year old, is sent over the edge!!
She's crying; she has no real understanding why, and cannot stop. Very quickly, I see she is just over-the-top exhausted and know she just needs sleep. But K can't comprehend what she needs at all right now, she is simply over stimulated; an eight-year-old version of over stimulated, anyway. She passed that point, when her regularly used coping mechanisms would have been useful to her, some time ago. She doesn't want to try to calm down, really. She only wants to cry and needs me there while she does it.
So, like I have done to help her for so many years in this exact situation, I begin massaging her legs- her current favorite spot. Almost immediately she starts to focus on what I am doing. Though she isn't what you would consider calm yet, she has stopped actually crying and her breath is slowing and deepening. Before too long there is small grin on her face. Massage is a happy sensorial memory for her, and eventually, those tears that were keeping her awake, are pushing her towards sleep.
Infant massage came into my family's world about a year into my twins' premature little lives. Outside of expected developmental delays, K was truly struggling with sensory integration, both somatic (touch) and auditory (sound). It was affecting her ability to learn to regulate, basically everything, and I had no idea how to help, much less cope myself. We sought help and worked on many things for many years. The tool that had the biggest impact both immediately and over the long term is massage.
Being taught massage made my hands and my intention (tone, energy and focus) a powerful force in helping teach her body to cope with stress. I learned what is happening biologically when she is experiencing that stress, why she may not be able to control her reactions and how to read her body signals, which was invaluable until she could truly develop the language to communicate her emotions.
Infant Massage is most easily taught on the infant because she is obviously less mobile and able to stay still long enough for you, as the parent, to learn the work and build a calming routine with her. However, the need, desire, and use of this amazing tool does not end with infancy. It evolves and needs you, as the parent and practitioner, to evolve with it for the sake of your child.
Over the past eight years, everything about our massage routine has changed. From the amount of time and favorite parts of the body to its regularity and level of interactivity, each variable has gone back and forth several times. There were times when it was a very quiet calming routine preparing for bed and other times the work was incorporated into a game or song. There were even times when the regular practice of massage halted except when needed therapeutically, like during chest colds or to ease gas pains. My husband and I have always stayed true to respecting what K wanted, so it has always been a good experience.
I could not have understood how essential massage would become in our lives as we learned it eight years ago. So at the of this overstimulating day, I was able to be calm after giving a massage, rather than frazzled after coping with an inconsolable little girl. I found myself once again grateful that we had stuck with Infant Massage, even after K was no longer an baby..