How does massage therapy help children experiencing wartime trauma?

Hello family and friends,

The stories below were recently shared with Sveta and me by our massage therapist working in northwestern Ukraine. She shares her experiences with children who have intellectual disabilities and those who have “normal” intelligence, but have experienced wartime trauma. I added these pictures to show that exercise paralleled with massage therapy, along with other therapies, will bring the best results. Here are her stories.

The effect of massage on children with intellectual disabilities.

Take a look at this video first: Kolya’s face massage

I want to tell a story about a wonderful boy Igor, who came to our school/orphanage in 2013 from a Baby House. Now he is in 9th grade. During this time, he has been a special child for me, because I see how he reacts to the world, and how he treats his peers, and how he thinks… 

Of all the children, I chose him because I see how he changes every day, I see his emotions, I see his bright eyes that light up after each massage session. Igorchik (term of endearment) is a very emotional boy, when he came to our school/orphanage, he always cried and sat in a corner, hiding from classmates and educators. 

Frequent mental disturbances attacked him and did not allow him to think fully or freely. 

Such inappropriate behavior was apparent in the beginning of his time at our school/orphanage. Very often the issue of taking Igor for medical treatment was discussed.

He often had mental disturbances because his aunt often promised to take him home and did not keep her promise. He often hid within himself, cried, and was often aggressive with the other children. 

 It was very difficult to find an approach with this child, although all teachers (psychologist, speech pathologist, speech therapist) were fully involved.

Thanks to our sponsor, MUCH, children have the opportunity to undergo massage sessions and restore their health. (For which I sincerely am thankful on my own behalf and on behalf of our children. This is a great contribution to our future and to a healthy nation). 

Igorchyk (a term of endearment) also had periodic massage sessions, mostly relaxing massages, aromatherapy, and massage therapy. Every day I saw how his well-being improves, I saw how his eyes glow after relaxation, I saw how his emotions goes from stress to calm. These feelings are best when you see how you help the child. With each session you see how the child’s posture changes, mood changes, as well as the desire to continue working and move forward …

The effect of massage on children in wartime:

I live and work in Western Ukraine. Due to the current events in Ukraine, I have the opportunity to work with children from the Mykolaiv region, south central, Ukraine. Therefore, it is very interesting to observe the mental state of adolescents. Why teenagers? Because younger children, they react differently to current events, and do not perceive this information. They perceive the word of war differently than high school students.

Therefore, I paid attention to children aged 14-16. The children who came to our school/orphanage and attended the massage sessions were very embarrassed, did not communicate much and did not make eye contact. We all understand that everything that is happening in the Eastern regions is hard to call a war, it is a brutal attack by HUMANS. These Russians soldiers, having nothing sacred: they robbed houses, raped women, killed small children …Nobody can imagine this, especially people who believe in Jesus Christ.

For me, these are completely unrealistic things, as we see the world so cruel that evil reigns over us …… and we fight, we win – because God is with us! And I believe that everything will be fine. When I started working with these children, it was also very difficult for me. They did not want to come in contact with me. Who can they trust in this new environment. They were embarrassed to undress, never having had massage. They did not understand at all what I wanted them to do.

The behavior of the children was really incomprehensible to me. They were children whom I did not know at all. They were from a part of our country that was somewhat of a different culture. I was very interested in a boy named Maxim. He was 7 years old. When he came for massage, he took off his T-shirt and looked at the massage table with shyness, most uncertain. I told him, “Come on, lie down, everything will be fine.” And he told me “Will we have time to run to the bomb shelter if we hear the siren”?

I felt so sorry for him, I hugged him and said. I am very sorry that you became part of this terrible war and are going through this difficult time. But now you are in a safe place. Try not to think about the siren and war. He calmed down and lay down on the massage table. During the massage we talked about school, friends, and about rest. Maxim’s psycho-emotional state has really improved, and his nervous system has normalized. Massage helps children to relax and forget about the present. Children feel great and are always happy to attend massage sessions.

Blessings of love and healing,

Mark and Sveta