You're Never too Young to Relax

Stressed out five-year-olds are being treated with massages and pedicures in a global trend which has psychologists worried.

Auckland based Spa Ayurda has seen an increase in child clients popping in for treatments valued up to $60.

And elsewhere around the country, preschoolers are having pamper parties which emulate their mothers', complete with manicures and foot spas.

Children get stressed just like adults and need to feel good about their bodies, Spa Ayurda owner Rippan Sandhu told the Sunday Star-Times. "Kids are growing at a super fast speed and their lives are full of activities not just at school, but after school too," Sandhu said.

"But they don't know how to express stress. They may throw a tantrum or not eat or sleep properly, fight with their siblings or cry and become withdrawn."

Spa Ayurda specialises in the Hindu techniques of wellness massage using medicated oils to remove toxins and stress.

The spa has seen a steady increase in child clients since it opened its doors in Ponsonby in 2010.


"In India, massage is a part of life; it helps the body unwind," Sandhu said.

Her 10-year-old daughter Isha receives 45-minute full body massages every month and has been doing so all her life.

"My favourites are facials and massages, you feel really relaxed after," Isha told the Star-Times.

"Sometimes I fall asleep on the massage table and they have to wake me up."

Isha said regular massage calms her mood and helps her concentrate at school.

Her teachers notice the difference. "People from school are always mentioning how calm and controlled she is; she's not hyper," Sandhu said.

Spa manager Brande Melland said children often come fidgeting and hyperactive and leave as ‘different people'.

Parents who have visited the spa will return with children to help them relax. "It's great to share the experience.

"One boy recently came out asking if can we book another one."

Child massage is just picking up in New Zealand, following a growing global trend.

Four Seasons resort in Whistler, Canada, offers body scrubs smelling like hot fudge sundae or strawberry shortcake for child massages.

Mother-daughter and father-son massage and facial packages are offered at Thailand's ESPA spa at Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve.

Back home, little girls can sip sparkling grape juice from champagne flutes while receiving diamante manicures and pedicures for $20 a pop.

"It makes them feel all grown up and spoilt," Mobile Beauty Auckland director Lusia Rokitta said.

Mothers from more affluent backgrounds tend to be those who book pamper parties for kids.

"The types of girls who use these services are the real girly-girls, generally whose mums have these types of nice treatments done themselves, which is more and more common these days."

Foot spas and facials are also offered at parties through Mobile Beauty Christchurch.

Owner Saska Ferguson originally catered for adults and teenagers but now includes nine to 12-year-olds.

She also recently did a four-year-old's birthday party where the children were happy to sit for 20-minute sessions.

"I think they see their parents painting their toes so they want to get it done too," Ferguson said. "They're happy to sit there because there's lots of colours and patterns to choose from."

Ferguson also offers facials for older children with the option of a chocolate face mask thrown in. Girls from age eight have had this done.

But spa treatments should be left to the realm of adults, child psychologists say.

Traditional stress busters like exercise, healthy eating, and socialising with family and friends trump day spas any day, Auckland psychologist David Stebbing said.

"I think you risk adultifying kids with this form of treatment. Looking at the cause of the child's stress and not just the management of it is of merit," Stebbing told the Star-Times.

Spending money to relax also set a bad precedent for kids as they learned to cope with stress.

"It could still be a fun and harmless thing for a child to do once or twice but never something that should be sold to them as a way to reduce their stress levels."

Psychologist and child psychotherapist Adele Scott said children were growing up fast enough as it was.

"We know there are increasingly younger kids with body issues and eating disorders. Being aware of your sex early-on relates to body issues," Scott said.

"Kids don't play with other kids any more.

"A child needs a childhood, otherwise they miss out on the emotional building blocks as they grow up."

- Sunday Star Times


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