Tips for Working with Children

Pages: 21
Year: 2008
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration – Vol. 36 – Nº 3

Volume: 36

I appreciate very much being asked to write an article about Rolfing children. It is such a joyful part of my practice.

It took several years before children began showing up on my Rolfing table. Generally, these were the children of my clients. I quickly realized that an approach to Rolfing children required modification of my approach with adults for several reasons.

Children are still growing and changing. I knew I was not wise enough to know the innate grand plan of these individuals’ physical development. I decided to work with them in a similar manner to what I use with pregnant women. My approach when Rolfing pregnant women is to provide room for the growth that is taking place. This is not the time to make big changes.

For children, I want to intervene in their developmental processes as little as possible. As children go through growth spurts, I try to ease the myofascial structures that seem to be lagging behind the rapid bone growth taking place. I check spinal patterns to see if myofascial restrictions are inhibiting normal spinal movement. I avoid thoughts of changing a valgus or varus leg pattern, as they are often just part of the developmental process taking place.

What I have become increasingly aware of is the psychological aspects of the relationship that need very close attention. Many times children come to see me somewhat involuntarily. At times I have had to tell the parent that this was not the time to work with their child. I have heard of children of Rolfers who received work from their parents who later felt that the work was invasive and perceived as somewhat abusive. Being certain that children understand that they are at the sessions because they are loved by their parents, not because they are defective in some way, is key to making their first Rolfing experience a lasting, positive memory.

Often the work is the first sustained physical touch received from someone other than their parents, if at all. It is vitally important that the child feel that he is in a place of safety. Your touch and approach may, in part, shape how this child feels about being touched throughout his life. This sense of safety is even more critical when the work is cross-gender and when the child is approaching puberty.

I recently had the pleasure of receiving a call from a client who received Rolfing from me well over fifteen years ago. She was thirteen at the time and going through some social anxiety issues in school. She was internal in every sense of the word. She was shy, smart, and articulate. She seemed to enjoy her series very much. She was old enough to have a somewhat classic series minus nose work, which I though might be a little too intense and invasive for her.

Well, here she was coming back for a tune-up a couple of decades later. She appeared to be a poised woman in her early thirties, married with a family. I was curious to hear about her recollections of her original Rolfing series. I was a fairly new Rolfer when I had first met her and now wondered what kind of impression she had formed of the work. After we started the session, I asked her what she could recall of her original experience. The first thing that she remembered was walking down the junior high school hallways after her series and feeling her open ribcage and how easy it was to breathe. She spoke of feeling comfortable in her own skin for the first time that she could remember, and that dealing with the stress of being a teenager in a new school was much easier.

As the field of Rolfing continues to grows, the hope is we will increasingly be seen by the general public as experts in the field of balance, posture and alignment. Early intervention (when there is a structural issue) is as important in a child’s physical development as it is in a child’s psychological and cognitive development.

Those of us who are Rolfing teachers need to continue to meet the educational needs of practitioners so they can fill this increasing demand.

Tips for Working with Children

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