Mental Health has received increased attention over the last few years. This has led to more individuals and families seeking help without carrying the stigma once associated with therapy. Mental health counseling can be a tool to help individuals and families to foster improved relationships amongst family members, greater understanding of one another and as safe space to explore emotions, attitudes and behaviors that can be damaging for the individuals and their family.
Parenting is a journey that presents differently to each one of us, as no two families have the same cultural background, demographics and past experiences. Parenting brings the parent and the child to a place where communication becomes critical to the success of the relationship. When communication between parents and children break down the challenges within that family unit increases and often proves difficult to improve without assistance.
Communication seems to be the magic word, however, little attention is given to what type of communication we must practice to ensure both parent and child are valued and treated with dignity and respect. Non-violent communication seeks to improve relationships based on empathy and compassion. Non-violent parenting strives to create environments that enhance cooperation and benefits for all involved without power struggles. A great example is when a child misbehaves, instead of the parent immediately targeting behavior modification saying something like “stop doing that”, it will involve the parent actively practicing empathy to try to understand what the child may be feeling at that moment; the parent may ask “I see you have a lot of energy, you must be feeling (fill the blank)” to open up a more in depth conversation with the child.
This type of interaction creates an environment where the parent takes the time to have a moment of introspection and think “what am I feeling” and then think “what could my child be feeling”. Non-violent parenting requires for the parent to think of their child as a human being with emotions and needs that also need to be fulfilled. At the same time it allows both parties to engage in deeper conversations that communicate to the child their needs and emotions are valued and important. Based on these types of conversations a mutual agreement is developed so both parent and child’s needs are met. This is what assertive communication looks like in the adult world. However, our society has failed to provide small humans the gift of assertive communication under the false belief that parenting is more about power over instead of power with.
Parent-child relationships, unlike any other relationship have a unique bond that cannot be broken. If each one of us, parents, were to focus on developing non-violent communication with our children, as a society we would be raising children that value the needs and rights of others which will create societies where abuse would be less likely to be a daily part of our lives.
Karla Arroyo was born and raised in Mexico City where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. Karla moved to Provo, Utah in June of 1999 and earned a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Utah in 2006. Karla is currently enrolled in the PhD program at the University of Utah, College of Social Work. Her research interests are in the area of the intersection of domestic violence and substance abuse. Karla has spent the last 10 years working with the community in direct clinical practice, community organization, prevention and education.
Karla is working full-time as the Director of the Multicultural Counseling Center, an agency that provides counseling to individuals, children, families and couples and that specializes in trauma survivors. Most recently she has focused on developing and expanding pilot programs offering counseling and peer support through telehealth in efforts to reach isolated communities throughout the State of Utah.