Parental Box as a lifeline for families

Parental Box, a semifinalist team in the Helsinki Challenge science-based competition, wants to save families with children from exhaustion and help parents keep the spark alive with its “mental maternity box”.

Over the course of the Helsinki Challenge, the team will develop a toolkit that provides families with easily accessible support for promoting mental health and related skills. Parental Box is more than an information package. It digs deep into parenthood and the emotions of mothers and fathers.

 “Parental Box differs from many online forums targeting families with babies, which sometimes offer contradictory content that can burden parents in various ways,” say team leader, Docent Lotta Uusitalo-Malmivaara and Docent Nina Sajaniemi.

 “Their well-intentioned instructions describe super moms and point out the mistakes of others who do not behave the way the writer does.” 

From super parenthood to normal life

Parental Box wants to show that there are many ways to be a good enough mother or a good enough father. The goal is to restore normalcy to parenthood, to bring out the positive and the negative, and to describe all aspects of parenthood as natural phenomena in life.

Parental Box encourages parents to treat their children as individuals who thrive in the company of others when they are seen and heard as their true, unique selves. The mental maternity box fills an urgent need: despite improvements in material wealth, people are doing worse in terms of their mental wellbeing.

Parental Box contains easy practical tips 

Examples of the practical tips and guidelines that Parental Box offers include ensuring families that a baby’s crying does not mean that the child is abnormal but is a sign of the baby practising self-regulation and communication.

 “Listening to a crying infant may exhaust and irritate parents,” Sajaniemi explains.

But it is not the baby’s intention to irritate. Children are different from birth: some calm down faster, others need more time. 

 “In their role as parents, people also need to regulate themselves – and that can drain your strength. Parental Box helps you comprehend your own resources and seek refuelling, if needed,” Sajaniemi continues.   

Learning mental health skills is one of the most important cornerstones of a good life. Parenthood may be full of surprises and, at times, very painful. A good safety network can come to the rescue of both children and parents. 

 “We would like to offer a mental toolkit to every family with children around the world,” says Uusitalo-Malmivaara.

The package is an ideal addition to the traditional maternity package (a kit granted by the Finnish social security institution Kela to all expectant or adoptive parents who live in Finland or are covered by the Finnish social security system), providing added strength to young families. Parental Box benefits from advanced scientific expertise and the input of experienced players in the field.

Team Parental Box includes researchers from the universities of Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Uppsala and Warwick, as well as the Finnish Association for Mental Health, the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters, and the National Institute for Health and Welfare. 

Follow @ParentalBox

Helsinki Challenge

Helsinki Challenge is a science-based idea competition and accelerator programme that brings different actors from the scientific community and society together to solve the great problems in the world.

This year’s Challenge themes – Sustainable Planet, Urban Future, and People in Change – are linked to the UN’s sustainable development goals.

The idea competition’s prize is 375,000 euros and it is meant for putting the solution into practice. The solution can be an idea, an invention, a concept, a research project, a business idea, an initiative or a new research question.

Parental Box is one of the seven semifinalist teams led from the University of Helsinki. All 20 semifinalists of Helsinki Challenge will test their ideas in front of an audience during two Pitch Nights on 22 and 23 February. More information on the Pitch Nights and registration for audience can be found at: