WAIMH Executive Director Corner

Photo: WAIMH Executive Director, Kaija Puura

Dear colleagues and friends,

Here in Finland December has started with crisp winter weather, with temperatures well below zero. The university year is ending, and for me it always means leaving the past behind and looking forward to a new year and a fresh start. This autumn has been darkened by various crises and threats of new crises, including a possible new big wave of Covid-19 infections. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that, for us in WAIMH, the main worries are the armed conflicts where innocent children and families continue to suffer, the latest of these being the new crisis in the Middle East. WAIMH Presidents Campbell Paul and Astrid Berg, together with the WAIMH Board and Office, have been working with both Israeli and Palestinian colleagues, as well as with colleagues in Ukraine, on trying to find ways for supporting children and their families in the middle of the horrific situation. Our own Peace Nobel Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari, who sadly passed away this autumn, often said that all conflicts can be solved when there is enough will to solve them. We can only hope that the will for peace will be found someday in all the conflict regions.

Last week I had the honor to be a guest speaker in the Tampere Children’s Parliament, as the theme for the Parliament meeting was children’s mental health. The Children’s Parliament is one of the initiatives of the youth department of the City of Tampere, and all schools elect two representatives aged 11 to 13 to take part in it. It was heartwarming to see how seriously both the members and the chair of the Children’s Parliament took the meeting and how well it ran. Children had particularly asked me to talk about how they could support their own mental health and what they could do if they were worried about their own or about a friend’s mental health. Since children live in the same reality as we adults, I will share some ideas from my talk here as well. Brain researchers all over the world have already for a long time written of the importance of sleep and of short, stress relieving breaks during daytime. Even in times when getting enough sleep can be hard, maybe it is possible to practice taking five- to ten-minute “empty” moments for ourselves, to help our brains to rest for a bit. Empty moments are moments when we do not do anything, but just rest our eyes by looking into the distance, breathe deeply and slow down our thoughts. It is even better if we can go for a short walk without any smart devices and just concentrate on what is around us. Another thing we can practice is monitoring our own thoughts: are we thinking about our worries all the time? Are we constantly reproaching ourselves about what we did or did not do? According to brain researchers it is better to turn worries into action and start talking kindly to oneself. To the children I naturally said that it would be good if they could share their worries – and joys – with a trustworthy, caring adult. And of course, this applies to us too: shared joy is doubled and shared grief is halved. In dire times it is particularly important that we support each other and get support from each other. WAIMH is an organization formed of relationships and it is always so good to see how we enjoy each other’s company in regional meetings and at World Congresses. And together we can also work for a better future for young children and families all over the world.

Next summer, from June 5-7, 2024, the WAIMH Interim World Congress will take place at Tampere Hall here in Tampere with the theme “Looking for the best care for babies, young children and families”. The Congress program consists of invited keynote lectures and a poster exhibition. At the Precongress on June 5 you can hear about the social and health care services the Nordic countries provide for young children and their families. The Congress registration is now open. For more information, please visit our website https://waimh.org/page/WAIMH2024

With warm wishes to you all,