Everyone should be given time and space to contemplate their childhood experiences and their past and offered an opportunity to be heard as they are. In the present, we have the possibility to find our own strengths and resources, and create ourselves a satisfying life that reflects who we are – not only despite our childhood but also because of it. Support is available and worth seeking. A diverse range of help services is available for adult children of alcoholics: peer-support groups, professional help and online helplines. Information can be found on various websites and in literature.
Peer-support is offered by, for instance, ACoA groups that are aimed at adult children of alcoholics, and the Fragile Childhood activity along with our project partners, including the Finnish Central Association for Mental Health and the Finnish Association for Mental Health. Finding help tailored to one’s personal needs is possible across Finland. Psychologists are mental health professionals who can be of help in processing past issues. They work in different guidance services, health centers and occupational health clinics, as well as in schools.
Tukinet.net is a Finnish online crisis center that offers advice, guidance and peer-support via chat discussions and a discussion forum. Pullopostia lapsuudesta (‘Message in a bottle from childhood’) is a popular Finnish discussion group on Facebook. The Fragile Childhood activity arranges online discussion groups for adults starting in 2016.
Online therapy consists of online therapy programs, which concentrate on mental health problems and aim to help people to identify harmful thought patterns and learn new ways to cope with difficult situations. The clients’ independent exercises are guided by an online therapist. To start online therapy, which is free of charge for the client, a referral from the doctor is required. The referral can be written by a doctor from either public or private health care.
Stress and traumatic experiences have profound effects on the well-being of the body and the mind, but these effects are possible to recover from. Treating traumas and alleviating the symptoms resulting from them does not necessarily mean returning to the memories and processing them. Concentrating on the current symptoms is another option. Various body-centered techniques have been shown to bring major relief to several people.
Here are some examples:
Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercise (TRE) is a simple and effective method that assists in recovering traumatic experiences with the help of easy physical exercises. The method helps the body and mind to return to the state of balance, relaxation and tranquility.
Our current lifestyle exposes our body and mind to various types of stress, fatigue and tensions. The Shindo stretching exercises form an effective method to release the already existing stress as well as maintain body flexibility and prevent the accumulation of tensions. At the same time, they clear and relax the mind. The Shindo practice is suitable for people of all ages and almost all physical conditions.
We as humans have a tendency to grieve over the past and worry about the future instead of living solely in the present. We also tend to always follow the same thought patterns. The skills of mindful awareness and presence refer to being able to concentrate on experiencing, observing and accepting the ongoing moment. Mindfulness skills have already been known in the Eastern meditative traditions for thousands of years. The exercises started to spread to the Western world more widely in the 1970s, when the American Jon Kabat Zinn began to instruct chronically ill patients and patients with chronic pain to follow a stress management program based on Mindfulness skills. The program has been studied to a great extent, and the results are very convincing. Mindfulness may help with depression, anxiety, stress and pain relief, but it can also be the key to a happier, more relaxed and more conscious life. It has even been observed that carrying out the exercises at regular intervals improves physical health and the immune system. Even children and adolescents have benefited from the exercises, which have helped them concentrate, calm down and learn better.
Support for parenting and raising children
The best parent is a healthy parent. In other words, taking care of your own health and well-being is very important for your child, as well. Tiredness, constant hurry, feelings of inadequacy and the responsibilities of everyday life are, to some extent, part of the lives of all families with children. When the burden becomes too heavy to bear, one’s joy of life may begin to disappear, bringing in depression, anxiety and other signs of suffering of the mind. At this point, it is recommendable to stop and think where you stand and whether you should change course.
The article The impact of childhood on parenting deals with different challenges that parents may face if their own childhood has not been a safe one. Expectations of one’s own parenting skills and children may also be unreasonable. Accepting a child’s feelings may be challenging, and several factors related to parenting may feel overbearing. It is advisable to seek help for coping with these feelings via, for example, guidance services or peer-support groups.
Where to find help and support
Maternal and child health clinics
You can ask the nurses at maternal and child health clinics (äitiys- ja lastenneuvola) for help with almost anything. You can discuss the situation of your family and ponder on how to move forward. Maternity guidance services of this type are an essential part of preventive and health promoting basic health care. The services are voluntary and free of charge for families, and it is on the municipalities’ responsibility to arrange them.
Read more in Finnish: https://www.thl.fi/fi/web/lapset-nuoret-ja-perheet/peruspalvelut/aitiys_...
Municipalities have the responsibility to arrange family counseling services to their residents. The objective of family counseling is to promote a child’s well-being, individual growth and positive development, support the parents and consolidate the family’s coping skills and resources. No referral is needed in order to contact a family counseling office.
Read more in Finnish: https://www.thl.fi/fi/web/lapset-nuoret-japerheet/peruspalvelut/sosiaali...
Home services for families
Home services intended for families consist of social services under the Finnish Social Welfare Act. Their objective is to help families manage their everyday life. Home services are always carried out in cooperation with the family, and they refer to:
- living arrangements
- care and attention
- maintaining ability to function
- childcare and upbringing
- running arraigns
- carrying out or assisting in other daily activities and functions
Read more in Finnish: https://www.thl.fi/fi/web/lapset-nuoret-ja-perheet/peruspalvelut/sosiaal...
We also recommend asking about the services provided by your local organizations and parishes. In several municipalities there are, for instance, Family Cafés founded by the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare. Organizations also arrange face-to-face and online group activities and offer a vast amount of information regarding family services.
The counseling centers for family matters (perheasian neuvottelukeskus) offer support in questions related to relationships, family and private life. The services are free of charge, and one does not need to belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church to become a client. Services are often also provided in Swedish and English. Family counselors and clerks are required to observe professional secrecy. Appointments with a family counselor should be booked in advance. Different types of therapeutic groups also congregate at the counseling centers.
You may also benefit from books that generally deal with self-knowledge, codependency and facing one’s inner child. Literature concerning traumatic experiences may also be helpful in finding explanations to one’s adulthood problems and discovering the best way forward. The self-help book Waking the Tiger – Healing Trauma, by Peter A. Levine, which can be found in libraries, is a good example of a work that is easy to comprehend and offers practical tools.
Returning to one’s own fragile childhood may feel difficult at first. It awakens new thoughts, raises strong emotions and even affects body functions. Facing your fragile childhood is a very comprehensive experience. It may, nonetheless, lead to a beneficial outcome. The difficult beginning will be replaced by new hope, forgiveness, experiences of breaking away from the past and having mercy for oneself. Many of those who have had the courage to seek help have stated that even severe problems are possible to overcome.
Translation from Finnish: Laura Virrantola