Massage for Children in Palliative Care

The Story Massage Programme is proving beneficial for children and adults in palliative care. We have trained many therapists and care workers who now use the programme regularly in their work with children and adults in hospice settings. 

You’ll find are some of the key messages below. But first, a video of two therapists talking about how they use the Story Massage Programme for children in palliative care.

Siblings Groups at a Children’s Hospice

The Story Massage Programme is a positive touch activity that can help children share their feelings in a safe and confidential atmosphere. Children are free to express how they are feeling at that particular time, and to know that it is okay to have these difficult emotions. Sharing massage stories can help them recognise they are not alone in feeling guilty, angry, sad, confused – others are feeling the same. They have often lost the attention of their parents and their playmate too. It is a period of bereavement before the sibling dies. Sharing a story massage can encourage the children to express their emotions, and also to laugh and play, and develop friendships within the group.

Siblings can be invited to share pre-written massage stories from our book Once upon a touch… story massage for children and to create their own using our ten basic story massage strokes. Most popular stories are those that have a happy and hopeful ending. “It’s important that siblings feel safe at such a confusing and complicated time in their lives,” says Angela Garrett, complementary therapies co-ordinator at Christopher’s, Shooting Star Chase Children’s Hospice. “We choose stories that give a sense of holding their hands through it all.”

Siblings may also choose to share massage stories with others in the family. A therapist told us about a 10 year old who decided to give her mother a massage story whilst they were sitting in her sister’s room at the hospice. It gave her something helpful to do and encouraged a positive connection with her mother.

Grandparent Groups

The Story Massage Programme of ten strokes can be a bonding and supportive activity for grandparents of children under the care of the hospice. At one such group, the grandparents were invited to write a simple massage story about their grandchild and to share this with others on the day. Everyone listened and respected each other, and joined in with the massages creating a special moment for everyone. The massage story could then be shared with the rest of the family, and kept as a memory too.

One to One Story Massage Sessions for Children in Palliative Care

Short and simple massage stories are best with children who are in the last months, weeks and days of their lives. The gentle touch combined with a story can act as a distraction from any pain and offer something comforting to look forward to. It can be calming and soothing, helping a child to relax and sleep. Massage stories can be adapted around age appropriate stories or nursery rhymes, and written specifically for an individual child. If the child is well enough, then it can be a wonderful positive touch activity in a sensory room.

The therapist working with massage for children in palliative care should be flexible and work on areas such as the tummy or the side, if the child is in bed. And you obviously need to be careful around and drips, drains and tubes. Parents can also be taught simple Story Massage strokes so they can share these with their children.

Coping with Bereavement

We have had letters from parents who have found The Smiling Flower massage story offered great comfort to the whole family. Several parents have also used our ten basic story massage strokes to help the children write their own stories and share them as a massage. Massage stories can also be adapted from books such as Are you Sad, Little Bear?, I’ll Always Love You and Badger’s Parting Gifts.

You may also find this massage story written by a mother for her daughter helpful.  Please feel free to use and adapt this for your children of those in your care. Story Massage for Bereavement.

More about the Story Massage Programme

The Story Massage Programme combines the fun and reassurance of story with the benefits of positive, respectful touch. It is enjoyed by all ages and abilities. Ten simple massage strokes form the basis of the programme. These strokes have a name, such as The Circle or The Sprinkle, and an easy to recognise symbol (as shown in Emma’s massage story) making it accessible for all.

It is a fully inclusive activity, no clothing is removed and no oil is used. The online training is ideal for therapists, teachers, SEN staff, support staff, Early Years practitioners, those working with people with additional needs, Baby Massage Instructors, Relax Kids Coaches… everyone with an interest in sharing sensory stories and positive touch activities with children and adults. All the information is here: Story Massage Online Training


Massage for Children in Palliative Care — 1 Comment

  1. To all you. . Angels
    I have read with tears of joy xx
    So inspiring
    I have been massaging a long time and experienced ITEC tutor also teach massage to war victims in Bosnia and Kosovo for Phoenix-aid.
    I would love to know more about story massage.