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Pediatric Massage

By Tina Allen, LMT, CPMMT, CPMT, CIMT

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Preparing for a Pediatric Massage Therapy Session

New Certified Pediatric Massage Therapists (CPMTs) are often concerned about the best way to prepare for their first pediatric massage therapy session. Of course, first and foremost education and planning will best set the therapist up with tools to have a successful session. However, there are other ways to prepare that are often overlooked, and don't involve choosing the correct linens.

Be in the Moment

Children live life in the moment.  Unlike adults, children, are not always thinking about what plans may lie ahead, or errands they must complete later in the day. Living in the moment, is often referred to as mindfulness, or being fully present. This state of mind requires having  focus, attention, thoughts and feelings all fixed on the current activity. Being mindful as a massage therapist can be a skill worth focusing on, and developing to ensure the client receives the best attention during your session.

As we should with all of our clients, we must leave our "baggage at the door." With children this is extremely important, as they may not be interested in receiving massage, if they feel the therapist is disconnected or distracted. Developing the ability to compartmentalize our personal worries and concerns during a massage session is a needed skill. As a pediatric massage therapist, the focus should be 100 percent in the moment. This will create good rapport, trust and communication with the client.

Reflective Listening

Children are different than adult clients in a variety of ways. Something that may not be obvious, is the way children behave during massage. Adult clients often close their eyes and use this session time as a time to relax and pause from their daily lives. While, children on the other hand, often enjoy communicating with the pediatric massage therapist, asking questions about music and lubricant choices, along with "how's" and "why's" about each technique.

pediatric massage therapy - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Reflective listening is an approach to communication wherein we listen very carefully to someone while they are speaking. It is a two step strategy involving our listening, and then offering back the same idea to the speaker so they feel acknowledge and heard. With children this is very important as they are often dismissed and not respected for their thoughts and ideas. Children need to know adults also respect and listen to them. While at the same time, as pediatric massage therapists we follow our boundaries and ethical guidelines.

Flexibility and Creativity

It is ideal for the pediatric massage therapist to understand how to read and decipher the health history/intake form and formulate the best treatment plan. However, when providing care to children, it is imperative that we employ flexibility and creativity into each and every session. Children may or may not have familiarity with massage therapy and require a developmentally appropriate approach to introduce therapeutic massage.

Flexibility and creativity are skills that are best to develop to work well with pediatric clients. As much as the therapist plans and prepares, having knowledge and a skill set of how to introduce massage to several different age groups and developmental stages is an additional area for a professionals' focus.

Being creative allows you to incorporate storytelling, rhymes and music that engage a child during the session and make it much more engaging. Recognizing that not every children would be comfortable lying down during their massage time, we need to be flexible with our idea of how we perform massage. A child is welcome to stand, sit or lay down during massage session, as long as they are medically safe and comfortable. This is not the same as our usual protocol, of having a client lay down on a massage table for the entire session.

Give Choices

Children feel more empowered when they have choices. They have so many choices that can take place during a massage session. From the type of lubricant, music selection or even whether they receive massage at all.

Remember, it would be very rare if a child made their own massage appointment. Parents, doctors and nurses often consider pediatric massage therapy as an option to address many concerns, symptoms and conditions. Children on the other hand, may not have thought about massage therapy as an option.

The child always has the right to refuse massage therapy when offered. Giving choices of positioning, lighting and music allow the child to feel in control and an active role in their healthcare.  When giving choices, it is imperative that you give choices that are realistic and not overwhelming. A good example would be choosing between two different types of oils. The child can always choose massage without oil, which is sometimes a better choice considering they often wear clothing during massage time.

The same choice option applies to music. We often choose a specific style of music that we feel is "massage" appropriate. Many clients enjoy our music choices, while for others it is not calming or relaxing. When given the choice, children often choose fun and developmentally appropriate music, which may or may not be in line with your typical music selection.

During pediatric massage therapy, one of our main goals is to empower the child to feel they are the focus of the session, acknowledge that they are heard and respected. When our clients feel they are an active part of their health care, they are much more likely to receive the benefits massage therapy can provide.

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