Family Strengthening in Estonia
'My wish is for keeping my family together'
'My wish is for keeping my family together' That's what Natalya, a beneficiary of SOS Children's Villages Estonia's family strengthening project in the town of Narva, said.
Natalya turned to the municipality herself because she felt that she had no power to deal with life anymore. Her eldest son (16) had been quarrelling with Natalya for a long time, but had lately run away from home not to return for days, found friends with some criminal background and started stealing things. The younger children, a nine- and three-year-old, need care and hugs and making things together, but Natalya's heart was aching for her eldest son.
She made the decisive step and started looking for help in 2008, just after the SOS Children's Villages Estonia had started the project in Narva. Currently, the project is helping 79 children in 37 families who are at risk of abandonment because of a lack of social skills, sometimes caused by alcohol and/or drug abuse, unemployment and bad physical or mental health.
The project gave Natalya a support person, Jelena, who could fall back on rich life experience and also having gathered know-how from training organised by SOS Children's Villages Estonia. At first, Natalya felt strange; it was odd to talk about life to a complete stranger; to remember the events from the past and to live through the difficult moments of her past again.
Slowly, tension between women went up in smoke, the communication changed into a soft tone and trust grew. The conversations became more constructive and soon, they identified solutions both thought were worth a try.
Jelena led the conversations over and over again to the future. 'What will happen to your children? How will they live in five years from now? What kind of life will they have when they are grown-ups,' she asked.
Not like in a fairy tale
These questions helped Natalya concentrate on the main issue for each mother - how to ensure a good life for her children in future. She decided that she had no other choice but stop worrying and self-pitying and start leading the family out of dire straits. It's easier to say 'now' than actually doing it as different events in her life had almost destroyed Natalya's self-esteem.
Natalya and all of her children started seeing a psychologist, who consulted and helped them sort out their problems. The eldest kid dared tell mother about suicidal thoughts; younger children told mother how they had seen her in their dreams, how they missed her and how sad they were when mother was depressed again.
Slowly and shyly, mutual accusations turned into expressing their expectations and feelings; this united the family again. Of course, it was not as easy as in the fairytales, but the family now knows that it's easier to move together towards a common purpose, and that there are kind people who understand and support.
With a little help from relatives
The relatives came to help. Natalya's brother started meeting more with the oldest son and taking him to fish, together they started building and redoing the living room.
The project's co-worker noticed that Natalya pondered a lot over topics like how to live correctly, how to care for children, what is a good family, what are good relationships, what do children need. All of this was unknown to her, so she started learning, discussing, listening to consultants, reading books, playing and having conversations with her own children.
Although it may seem she has achieved a lot - her bigger children are doing great at school, she can take more care of her children and herself and she perceives that a lot depends on herself, she suffers less from depression, but she is still not free of it - that's when it seems like the ground disappeared and self-esteem is shaking; that's when she needs support. The support SOS Children's Villages Estonia's family strengthening project can give.