Massage & Bodywork

September/October 2013

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maximum potential By Tina Allen Helping Traumatized Children I The children that Chai Benson serves live in extreme poverty, have been exposed to drugs and/or alcohol in utero, and often experience neglect or sexual and physical abuse. "I have a client right now who witnessed brutal physical fights between his mother and father, and then later, between his mother and stepfather," says Benson, a certified infant massage teacher from Long Beach, California, who has a master's degree in child development and family studies. "I have been teaching his mom to massage his back for at least five minutes a day as part of their waking-up routine. At first, I was encouraging his mom to massage him when she noticed anger cues, but his anger is so quick and she becomes so overwhelmed that this approach didn't work. [Mother and child] are still working on making massage a routine, preventative method instead of a quick fix when the problem is occurring. However, I have noticed that both the client and his mom are much more relaxed and are thinking about their relationship in new ways." The power of massage and bodywork is helping traumatized children like this young boy find their way out of the darkness. Understanding Childhood Trauma According to the National Child Trauma Stress Network, "Traumatic events have a profound sensory impact on young children—their sense of safety may be shattered by frightening visual stimuli, loud noises, violent movements, and other sensations associated with an unpredictable, frightening event. The frightening images tend to recur in the form of nightmares, new fears, and actions/play that reenact the event."1 Childhood trauma occurs when actual or perceived threats of danger overwhelm a child's ability to regulate his emotional reactions and coping abilities. Recurring traumatic experiences may lead to complex trauma and compromise all areas of child development, including body integrity, cognitive processing, identity formation, neurodevelopment, and the ability to regulate behavior. Reactions to a traumatic event may vary according to several factors: the level of exposure to "I was really scared when I would see my mom hit by my dad. [I felt like] it was my fault. 60 massage & bodywork september/october 2013

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