Quite a while ago now, I received a letter from Freddie’s school asking whether I would give consent for him to participate in a ‘massage’ programme, which the school were trialling.

The letter explained that no clothing would be removed at any time, and the sessions would be carried out by members of staff who had received special training. 

As Freddie is a very tactile person (when he’s feeling especially touchy-feely he will attempt to perform exploratory surgery on your eyeball with his index, or ‘pointy’, finger), I thought he would probably enjoy it. 

I harboured a secret hope that it might even impart a bit of Zen into his frenetic little soul.

I heard no more about it for a long time. I forgot to ask about it at parents’ evening.

Then, a couple of weeks ago I had another letter, this time inviting me to go along to the school for an information session on the Massage in Schools Programme.

The room was arranged with the chairs placed in twos, one in front of the other.

When all the parents were seated (there were only half-a dozen per session) our children were brought to us, and directed to the chair in front.

The T.A. proceeded to demonstrate the massage ‘ritual’ or routine on an obliging year 6 pupil. Each different stroke, I discovered, has a name – Freddie shouted each one out as the T.A. explained them to us.

At the end of the session she told us that they had had very positive results with all the pupils.

As we were leaving she said to me that Freddie had responded particularly well.

That evening at home we talked about it to Daddy and Big Sister. I suggested we show them, and Freddie ordered me to sit on the floor.

I am starting to feel all warm and sleepy now just thinking about the tickly love-hearts he drew with the flat of his dinky hands on my back, one small, one medium-sized and one large.

We’d been given leaflets with basic information in case we wanted to have a go at home, but, intrigued by the idea of massage as a teaching tool, I decided to find out more.

The Massage in Schools Programme was founded in the year 2000, and introduced into participating schools in the UK in 2001.

It is a programme of clothed peer massage, where the children massage each other. 

It aims to improve the wellbeing and emotional security of children, as well as their interpersonal skills.

The children are taught always to ask the permission before touching each other, and that they have the right to decline if they don’t wish to participate on any occasion.

Research is ongoing, but there is strong anecdotal evidence from the recorded observations of teachers in schools participating in the programme, which attests to the positive effects that massage has on pupils’ emotional wellbeing and constructive social behaviour.

Briefly, the main benefits of the programme are:

- The children become calmer and their concentration improves, therefore the classroom as a whole becomes a calmer, and more focussed, environment.

- The children show improved confidence and self-esteem. For instance, some children who are not academic achievers are, however, found to be very good at massage, which leads to them gaining in status among their peers.

- Children learn to recognise ‘good’ and ‘bad’ touch, and are encouraged to understand that they have the right to say ‘no’.

- The children show improvements in motor skills.

- Empathy for others increases. Teachers have reported that children who massage each other are much more reluctant to bully each other, which in turn leads to a reduction in bullying and aggression.

- Working in pairs leads to improved co-operation.

- Some parents have reported an improvement in their child’s sleep patterns.

I will be trying this at home with Freddie. I am considering trying it with his dad, too. Who knows, if I can bring a little Zen into his soul too, he might finally get around to rebuilding the motorcycle that’s been lying around in bits in the garage for the last twenty-five years.

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