Children's experiences of massage in schools: a thematic analysis
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Children are introduced to an array of programmes designed to develop their knowledge and understanding in the core subjects of reading, writing, mathematics, health (hauora) and physical education. The promotion of positive relationships with peers contributes not only to children’s social development but to their emotional and cognitive development as well. The Children Massaging Children (CMC) programme offers an innovative way of enhancing understanding and enjoyment from learning. This qualitative descriptive study using thematic analysis, sought to understand children’s experiences and perceptions of the CMC programme. The theoretical framework underpinning this study was that of essentialist/realist allowing theorizing of motivations, experiences and meaning in a straightforward way. Four single gender focus groups of children aged 8-11 years were invited to share their experiences of the programme. The findings of this study uncovered some of the complex perceptions and expectations inherent in the experience of massage. For the children in this study this involved a process of reciprocation, working with a partner in the giving and receiving of massage. Equity in relation to the time receiving and giving massage was important with the final outcome of the massage experience dependent on the quality and comfort of the exchange. The role of the teacher in the massage session with consideration to partner selection, timing, length and equity of exchange of sessions is integral to the outcome. When the exchange is positive, children enjoy, relax and unwind from the experience and welcome the interaction with a fellow classmate. The CMC programme provides an opportunity to promote positive attitudes within the classroom and to interact co-operatively through touch at a level rarely seen in today’s environment. Through increased understanding of children’s experiences, the CMC programme can be improved and allow all involved to go ‘to a nice place’ after every massage experience.