By Sybil L. Hart, PhD, author of Lullaby Massage
Who would be the last parent to get voted off the island? Would our champ be the one able to take a pair of toddlers camping and return with both still smiling? Or, would she or he be the one able to bake a birthday cake that is a perfect replica of Spider-Man or Cinderella? My vote goes to the one who can take bedtime and make it the highlight of the day, even for the most challenging toddler.
It’s no secret that for some children, bedtime is enormously problematic, and for their parents, tackling it represents the Mount Everest of parenthood. Part of the difficulty finding a solution stems from the fact that bedtime problems arise for a wide variety of reasons. Some children are fearful of the dark, being alone, being abandoned, or all the fun they’ll miss if they’re asleep. Others are tightly wound up, either physically or emotionally, but have no strategy for unwinding. Some fall into both categories, and some are just unfathomable and fall into none. With so many different kinds of causes, it’s not surprising that there are so many different kinds of solutions, and so many floundering efforts to figure out why something that worked yesterday doesn’t seem to work today.
Nevertheless, certain kinds of treatments are so compelling, they work even though we don’t exactly know why. Of course, breastfeeding comes to mind. As nursing mothers the world over know, breastfeeding works for a whole variety of reasons. But most importantly, it works, period. What many Western mothers do not know, though our Eastern sisters have known for centuries, is that massage works, too.
When I developed lullaby massage, it was with the aim of making bedtime beautiful, easy, and fun, not only for children but parents as well, even Western parents who may not be familiar with massage. The technique involves strokes for different parts of the body that children (and all of us) find relaxing, and each type of stroke goes together with a poem. So, with each soft stroke that a child feels, she also receives the sound of her parent’s voice. Some of the words offer humor, others convey warmth and reassurances of love, and underneath it all, there is a message telling parents how to conduct the massage. See if you can figure out how to do the finger massage done to the words:
Five little tubes of toothpaste
Squeeze bottom to top
Then screw on the cap
Don’t waste a drop.