Have you ever gotten stuck like this…
When the “oatmeal hits the fan” and you’re trying to help your child calm down, and, at the same time, you feel more and more stress rising from the pit of your stomach or a tightness in your chest?
Have you found yourself wondering, “What can I do right now that will calm both of us, that doesn’t take a lot of time (because we are already late), and doesn’t need any special equipment (because I have nothing with me here at the doctor’s office, store, or library)?”
We’ve certainly had moments like these, but it wasn’t until last weekend, that we learned about, and actually experienced, a brand new way to help kids and adults regulate their feelings.
It’s called Story Massage!
It’s basically combining simple massage strokes while telling a story, using your hands to “illustrate” the story on someone’s back. It takes just a few minutes for you to give a story massage to a child, but the best part is that not only does the child calm, get centered, and regulate, but YOU DO TOO!
Pediatric massage therapist, Sirpa Kaajakari is an expert in Story Massage and a friend of ours. We actually met a few years ago through some mutual friends during a 10 day long backpacking trip that we all did, in the Sierra Mountains. This was when her youngest was 18 months old and wearing cloth diapers. It takes a certain kind of woman to do that!
Anyway, Sirpa came over last weekend and I interviewed her about how to use story massage. The interview was so fun and educational that I wanted to provide highlights of it here and show you a video of story massage in action so you can see what it looks like.
Here are the highlights of what she taught us:
- Story massage has been developed and used successfully in Europe, particularly in schools where children have been taught to use it with each other.
- You don’t have to have any special training to do story massage with another person but please ask before you touch someone and get feedback from them about how it feels and if you should use a lighter or heavier touch, etc.
- Research shows that story massage decreases stress hormones of the “giver” and the “recipient” and increases feel good hormones (who doesn’t want more of those!?)
- You can use stories that are written for story massage—you can find these on Sipra’s website —you can make up your own stories, or use stories from books or other sources.
- Massage stories don’t have to have a plot, good/bad guy or a resolution at the end. They can be more like “setting the stage”, or “creating an environment”, like you might use in a guided meditation.
- If you are using story massage for calming during a tantrum, make sure that you use it a few times beforehand so that the child will be familiar with this technique. Then, when the child is having a tough time, ask her if she would like a story massage.
- Besides helping a child calm, story massage is also used to help children focus, connect with each other, prevent a melt down, deal with little and big transitions, life changes, or even help with healing from trauma.
Here’s a clip of Sirpa giving me a story massage, so you can see how it’s done.
And please check out her website for more information and to learn about her classes. She’s a wonderful woman.
I was so thankful that Sirpa came over to teach us. Story massage is like my two favorite things put together!
Cecilia and Jason Hilkey