Conflicts and challenges are part of life, and nobody’s childhood is completely problem-free. Nonetheless, sometimes the challenges including, for instance, the parents’ harmful substance use, place disproportionate burdens on the everyday lives of families and prevent children from having a safe environment to grow up and develop in.
As people grow older, childhood experiences are temporally left behind, but in practice, these experiences still have an impact on people’s lives in various ways and many contexts. People’s experiences play a major role in how they observe and experience the surrounding world, how they behave in relation to other people, and how they expect others to behave in relation to them. The impact of childhood on the experiences of adulthood is undeniable. However, faith is not determined by childhood.
This said, those with harmful childhood experiences may suffer as adults from distressing and even frightening symptoms including flashbacks of past experiences, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, depression, psychosomatic symptoms, inability to be open, unpredictable outbursts of rage, repeated self-destructive behavior or behavior that is harmful to others.
These problems may be hard to bear. What makes them even more challenging is that understanding them causes difficulties to others, as well. Thus, sharing these matters with the people who are closest to you is important in order for others to be able to better understand and support you in different situations.
Other people may increase your burden by pressuring you to leave the past behind, move on and act “normal” already. Those who have gone through a fragile childhood often feel like no one else can understand or experience the same, and many also personally hope to be able to leave the negative experiences behind and continue living without paying attention to them any longer.
The problem with not dealing with these matters is that one cannot always control when or how childhood experiences become reactivated. The connection between the past and the present is not always apparent. Uneasiness may be triggered by a completely normal situation. Sometimes, for example, a scent or a sound may trigger anxiety which wells from a possibly already forgotten experience. In this case, the emotional reaction is related to something completely different than what it seems like to outsiders – something that even the person him or herself is not conscious of.
Difficulties stemming from one’s childhood can be dealt with by facing them openly. The past cannot be changed, but living in the present can be facilitated substantially. Often the best way to gain more strength and courage is to discuss feelings and thoughts openly with reliable people. These people can be friends, relatives or, for example, mental health professionals. Some benefit, to a great extent, from sharing their experiences in groups, while some wish to process their issues via painting, writing or, for instance, music.
There are several ways to face the issues, and it is important for everyone to find the one that is most convenient for them. In the Where to find help and support? section of the website, we have named some of the support services available. One should not think that receiving help is always difficult. For instance, in the Finnish Facebook discussion group Pullopostia lapsuudesta (‘Message in a Bottle from Childhood’), receiving peer-support and professional help is possible already within a few hours, and to join the group one only needs to send a request.
Read more about the impact of care and affection in the early years on relationships in adult life: