Excerpt from "Hands-on Parenting"

AS THE OLD SONG GOES, “The knee bone is connected to the thigh
bone, the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone,”
and so forth. In
order to help you learn how to massage your baby or child most effectively,
this part of the book is divided into specific body areas. So don’t
feel responsible to read this entire book at once, or that you have to give
a full-body massage at every session.

You—and your child—will be better served if you first become familiar
with the various areas of the body individually.


Each body area in this part of the book is defined as a physical area
(chest and shoulders, legs and feet, etc.). However, each of these areas is
further explained in terms of its spiritual and/or emotional importance
(the essence of life, our stance in life, etc.). By synthesizing this information,
you will come to understand the importance of each body area
in its own right and as an important part of the whole.

At first, you should massage each body area separately. This will
come in handy when just the feet, legs, arms, back, or other specific area
needs special attention.


Children will experience growing pains. It’s part of getting older.
Through play, participation in sports, and through accidents, they will
also experience deep bruising to their arms, ribs, elbows, and knees.
And I’m sure you know from experience how tension can create discomfort
in the neck and shoulders and throughout your body.

Tension

In order to appreciate massage, one must understand tension.
Tension is not necessarily bad because, either consciously or unconsciously,
it can send warning signals that something is amiss. However,
tension keeps feelings and sensations at bay. Understanding its limiting
effect, and how to counteract it, is essential in massaging your babies
and children. There are two fundamental tensions that we carry in our
bodies: “structural tension” and “acquired tension.”

Structural tension is the tensional pattern that literally shapes how
we stand, walk, sit, move, express ourselves, and experience our lives.
These patterns are genetic and specific to our family background. In
fact, as we grow older, people may remark that we stand or walk just
like our parents do. If you can recognize a structural similarity between
yourself and your parent(s), you may soon be able to recognize it in
your own child.

Acquired tension comes as a result of our experiences in life—both
the physical and emotional challenges we inevitably face. Our bodies
respond to stress and trauma by tightening, shortening, and/or contracting
muscles. Over time, these instinctual muscular reactions to
stressful situations turn into the tension and the inflexibility that can
cause greater problems. Moreover, as we age, these responses become
more firmly ingrained and more difficult to reverse.

Life presents many forms of stress to all of us, and the best thing
we can do for our children is to prepare them for it.
Our first trauma is
birth itself. Even though there have been tremendous advances in the
facility of the birth process, such as having fathers in the delivery room
and providing a comfortable and cheerful maternity suite, babies still
experience shock, loss, and separation from the womb. Their bodies respond
to this experience by tightening and shortening, thus initiating a
pattern that, unless interrupted, will govern their growth and development.