How can reflexology help children?

Susan Quayle, author of the ‘Mouse’ series, spoke to us to discuss her background in reflexology, the concept behind her books and how the practice of reflexology can help children.

 

Susan, you’ve been a reflexologist for a number of years. How did you discover reflexology?

I actually believe that reflexology discovered me, despite my resistance to it.

I first came across it at a green festival in Dorset. I tried it and found it extremely relaxing. At the time I was a hardcore horticulturalist, plants were my passion, but I did buy Laura Norman’s book and was fascinated with the whole idea.

Shortly after this my sister-in-law became pregnant and suffered very badly with Hyperemisis Gravidarum and my first step on the road to becoming a maternity reflexologist, unbeknownst to me, was when I would visit her and give her the treatment for morning sickness from Laura’s book. It always made her feel better.

 

It was another ten years before I retrained in massage therapy and followed this training with sports massage. Unfortunately, the sports massage tutor wasn’t very good and we all felt that we would never get through the exam or have the required knowledge to work in this field so we left en-mass. The only other course that was running was the reflexology diploma, which I was very unsure about joining. Fortunately I did and came to realise very quickly what an incredible therapy it is. I have trained in many therapies but reflexology has been the focus of my career followed closely by aromatherapy.

 

What do you think it is about reflexology that is so beneficial for children’s physical and mental well-being?

I have seen reflexology totally relax children, almost instantly; their eyes glaze and have a far away look in them and it happens very quickly if the child is in need of the treatment.

Reflexology promotes a profoundly deep relaxation that often feels like a switch being flicked and a part of you just sinks into a deep restfulness. It is during this deep rest and quiet space that the body is able to begin a healing response.

Children are open to new experiences and engage fully, when they feel safe and comfortable, which enables them to reach this place of healing and relaxation very quickly. As they are so young and untainted by life-long indulgences their body can rebalance quickly and often does.

Every day our children are put under more and more pressure to perform, conform and do well. Their physical and mental health is constantly under threat and children with supportive families are just as likely as those without to be prescribed drugs for depression now.

Complementary therapies are an important part of family life. In so many cultures around the world, where appropriate, nurturing touch is shared by the whole family not just given to the babies and young children.

Touch helps children to be more accepting of their body and the changes taking place, touch is an important part of being human and I think is particularly important for teenagers, who would accept it more readily if it had been part of their every day life delivered within the safety of a loving family.

 

Your new book (and the other books in your series) focuses around characters and a story to accompany a reflexology exercise. How did you find this process?

As with all processes that appear to arrive from nowhere, my first book had actually been many years in the making; deep inside my head where all the creativity is happening without me even really knowing about it.

Both my children were brought up with a love of books; we read to them every day and sang songs, our favourites were always the rhyming stories and songs. So it all began with Slinky Malinky, The Gruffalo, The Snail and the Whale, Green Eggs and Ham and all those wonderful books for children. I have always been pretty good at putting little rhymes together for children’s cards and things so the rhyming was fixed a long time ago.

The actual ‘Eureka’ moment, like Archimedes, occurred in the bath, a great place for parents to get a moment’s peace and actually lose themselves in thoughts. I jumped out and wrote the first draft instantly, that was the effect of all those years of preparation in the hidden corners of my brain! Many months’ work followed but that very first draft took place on October 12th 2012. I have never been so excited or bewildered!

Once I had the idea it was only really a matter of allowing the story to develop in my head. I think I could come up with them forever!

 

What reaction have you had to your books so far?

The reaction to the books has been wonderful. They have been embraced by the reflexology community and have even won awards, along with The Children’s Reflexology Programme, (the teaching programme that now goes with them). I think it was such a unique and novel idea to put reflexology to a story and also to make this lovely, gentle complementary therapy available to children. Children have embraced it whole heartedly; they love the animal characters, finding the animals on their own feet but also sharing such healthy, positive touch with family and friends. Complementary therapy made accessible through play offers a positive understanding of issues relating to health, self care and nurturing, positive touch within families but also within communities.

 

How is Mouse and the Storm different from the other books in your series?

My latest book Mouse and the Storm differs from the first two in that it contains hand reflexology. The first two books use foot reflexology so are more about giving and receiving reflexology. Book three is about giving and receiving too, but it also focuses on self treatment. Mouse and the Storm was written specifically to support parents of children with additional needs and to go with our courses for these parents.

Being able to self treat offers many children who have challenges with day-to-day transitions, between places and activities, strategies to help them. It also allows children with sensitivity issues to take control of the pressure and touch that is used on them. We have seen some wonderful results with both the book and the course, and with these children loving and engaging with the animal characters too. We have had reports of children coming home from school and telling their parents how many times they visited Mouse that day.

 

Are there any challenges you have encountered when using reflexology with children?

Using reflexology with children can be as challenging as trying to get them to engage in anything else. It can take time to build a relationship with them, which can create some awkward moments! If a child doesn’t want reflexology the chances are that today you won’t be giving any. However if you are careful you may well sow the seeds that will allow you to treat them next time. Children are naturally curious and once they have made a connection with you they will put their trust in you and love to learn. You can’t force a child so really it is about releasing your own ego and making it all about the child. I had one little boy whose mum used to come to me for reflexology and I always gave him a bit too. He wouldn’t allow anyone to give him reflexology except me – he grew out of it soon enough and now gives his baby sister reflexology as well as his parents; he’s only five.

 

Lastly, what do you hope readers take away from your book?

My passion is reflexology. I wrote my books so that I could share the huge benefits of reflexology with as many families as I could. I hope that the next generation will grow up not only knowing what reflexology is but what it feels like to receive and what it feels like to give, and value it as a resource available to them with little cost or effort. Hopefully these children will grow up wanting to share these books with their own children and so pass their knowledge on to the next generation.

Reflexology is an experience, a powerful human connection on a deeply personal and nurturing level that I hope will resonate with every child that encounters it through my books at a young age. To value connection and humanity through our basic human need, touch, is a value worth instilling from as early an age as possible. Complementary therapies are a gentle way of bringing communities together in health, well being, nurture and caring. Our children need to grow up in the warm embrace of these life skills for their own good health and that of each other. Our families and communities need to reconnect on the most basic level. This is a part of what I hope my books can bring about.

 

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To view the whole series by Susan Quayle, please click here.

Mouse and the Storm

A hand reflexology programme designed to relieve anxiety in children, accompanied by a soothing story about dealing with unexpected disruptions

 

Mouse’s Best Day Ever

A charming story about Mouse and her friends as they find fun on a stormy day with an accompanying simple reflexology treatment to help relieve discomfort from teething, constipation and colic

 

The Mouse’s House

An enchanting story about a mouse’s mission to make a cosy home for Winter with an accompanying simple reflexology massage for parents or carers to perform on a child

Inside the Mouse’s House…

by Susan Quayle, author of Mouse’s Best Day Ever

Sitting at the kitchen table were my two children and my daughter’s two friends, who had come over to play. They were having lunch and chattering away as children do, when I heard, “Poppy’s got a reward chart,” after which there was a brief silence, followed by, “for going to the toilet.” I have to admit that this was not exactly what I was expecting to hear. I turned around to join in the conversation, asking “how does that work then?”

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Connor

Over the years I have worked with many children in various settings from film sets, (Bridget Jones’s Baby, Harry Potter, The Theory of Everything) to fitness studios and dance and drama classes; and two things that have become abundantly clear to me from all this experience: Continue reading

My Transition from Practitioner to Teacher

Quayle_Mouses-House-Ch_978-1-84819-247-8_colourjpg-printby Susan Quayle, author of The Mouse’s House: Children’s Reflexology for Bedtime or Anytime, illustrated by Melissa Muldoon

If you are thinking of transitioning from a practitioner to a teacher I would definitely recommend it, especially if you have created your own beautiful course and have a passion to share it with the world. On the whole, the world is just waiting for you to share your vision with them.

As a maternity and fertility reflexologist I build powerful relationships with women at the most amazing times in their lives. Working with pregnant women is such an awe inspiring privilege with the therapist developing a connection to both mother and child. Very soon after making this career choice I realised that all too often the relationship ends abruptly after the child is born when really a whole new relationship should be starting. Babies absolutely love reflexology, whilst inside their mothers womb as well as skin to skin, so to speak!

For a long time after having this realisation I thought about how I could continue to see parents after their babies were born and the answer I came up with was to run a course for them. There was a problem with this idea though, what and how would I teach them? Just coming along for a session would be great but wouldn’t really be building any relationships or offering them the chance to bond with other new mothers. So the content needed to last for more than one session, be engaging, attractive and fun. I thought I might be able to create a course but there was a lot of work to consider and I really felt that without a proper concept it would feel a bit flat. I thought a lot more, for months, years even! As with all ideas they come after a lot of ground work has already been put in and one day in the bath an idea came to me of The Children’s Reflexology Programme, TCRP, and a lovely, simple story about a mouse that would visit all her friends and ask for help to make her new-found house cosy. The Mouse’s House and the development possibly for future courses were born. I have become a strong believer in the concept that if you work on ideas for long enough everything falls into place.

There was a lot of work involved in creating the book and finding Melissa Muldoon, the amazing illustrator, but after a year we self-published and shortly after that Lucy Buckridge, an editor from Jessica Kingsley Publishers, approached me and we now have the beautiful book that we see today. The Mouse’s House is a rhyming story of short verses where each of the animal characters represents one of the important reflexes and as you read the story to your child you work the reflexes as the characters appear. The result is a simple but complete treatment.

Almost two years after the creation of The Mouse’s House I started writing the first parent course to supplement the material in the book and help parents understand the reflexology better in a workshop style environment. The book with the animal characters had given me the concept that I had felt was missing from a course in the first place. I added a few more reflexes to the course which meant coming up with more characters. I felt that this would add value and would allow me to create specific treatments for a variety of minor conditions of childhood.

The first courses went out in the autumn of 2014 and I was a nervous wreck! I felt pretty exposed standing in front of an audience and teaching my course for the first time….but the mums loved it! I received messages from the very first day telling me how the reflexology had worked for a variety of conditions that their children were suffering and they couldn’t wait for the next session. I ran three courses for one hour a week over six weeks. The youngest we had on a course was four days old and he was suffering from constipation – but not for long! Everyone got something out of the course and all of them have continued to give their children reflexology since with the beautiful handouts that they received and their own copy of The Mouse’s House, which make up a parent pack and which the children loved.

The feedback was fabulous and inspired me to continue, so after Christmas I began writing an instructors course. I realised that if I wanted this to reach the number of people that I was thinking of I would need more than me out there teaching it to parents. I had already been thinking about the concept of a website that would link the instructors to their courses and allow anyone anywhere to find an instructor in their area. I had been asking my husband, who is a programmer, if he could design such a website for me and in January he started to work on what we have now. A large part of the instructor business is based online with lots of marketing materials and the Google Earth link to the site. So we had a way of instructors reaching their parents and telling the world that they were here.

One of the most important factors for me in creating TCRP was empowering parents. I wanted to bring the powerful effects of reflexology to them in a simple fun package that they could utilise anywhere and at any time. So now that I was writing an instructor course I thought about what I wanted to achieve from this course and again I wanted to be able to empower parents. I thought about the baby massage business model where there is no pre-requisite to be a massage therapist to train and I thought how wonderful it would be to be able to offer parents, mothers in particular, the option of having a sustainable, ethical business that they could work at alongside their parenting and which would be holistic and positive in supporting other families in such a beneficial way. Having seen mothers who’d had to go back to work, leaving their baby when they didn’t want to, it felt great to be able to give them another option, as a long term business plan or for a short time until they were ready to resume a career.

For me this was a huge thing. I felt that I was breaking many rules. As far as I was aware, in this country, all infant reflexology courses were taught by qualified reflexologists and mine would be the first to change this ideology. It wasn’t just parents that I wanted to offer this training to. Baby massage teachers, baby yoga teachers indeed anyone who worked or had a healthy interest in helping parents and their children would be able to train as an instructor.

By March I was pretty much done. The coursework was beautiful and there was lots of it! All the reflexology was wonderfully simple, clear and most importantly engaging. All the reflexology protocols had been carefully created by a professional reflexologist and the marketing material was all to a very high standard.

On a whim, in March, I published details of the first course – just to see what the reaction would be – and I got an instant response from several people. The first course ran in April and was a great success and a huge amount of fun. As I was aware that being the focus of attention wasn’t my favourite thing I built in lots of things for the students to do to draw it away from me. So much came out of this first course. Once you create something new it is often surprising how many different avenues can open up. The second instructor course ran in June and this enabled me to apply for approval from the Association of Refelxologists in the UK. I sent all the course work off, feeling very nervous about what they would say in regards to the not needing to be qualified to train. I have to admit to being quite flabbergasted by their response! They loved it and wanted to approve it but wanted me to make a couple of small changes – mostly in relation to teaching the reflexology to trained reflexologists, which was fair enough. I now have approval and the good news is that reflexologists only need to do two of the normal three days’ training.

I have lots of courses planned and have been in close contact with many wonderful reflexologists around the country who are helping me to set up all sorts of new initiatives with this concept. There are a lot of areas opening up that I had never really thought of and whole new concepts coming out of this one too.

I have also continued to write books and have written two more and am half way through a third for older children. Writing has become my passion and empowering parents through reflexology my mission. I really hope that infant reflexology can become as mainstream, accepted and appreciated as baby massage – but let’s not take forty years to make it happen this time!

Susan Quayle is an experienced reflexologist and complementary therapist who has developed her skills and qualifications to specialise in the areas of fertility, maternity, babies and children. Susan has created and developed ‘The Children’s Reflexology Programme’, which uses her guide The Mouse’s House. The course has been approved by the Association of Reflexologist. To find out more, including dates and venues across the UK, please visit www.kidsreflex.co.uk.

Susan lives in Devon, UK and her clinic is based in Exeter and at her home, she now spends much of her time empowering parents with reflexology through her innovative books and courses.

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Four day old asleep