Carilion’s virtual town hall: A discussion about parenting in traumatic times

The panel consisted of city leaders and child psychology experts

Roanoke, VA – It can be difficult to talk to your children about what is going on in a culture of violence and school shootings.

But as Roanoke City Schools counselor Ashley Carle said, it is important to have those conversations.

“These kids don’t feel safe,” Carle said.

Over the weekend, there was another shooting that left a teen dead in Roanoke – that’s two teen deaths due to gun violence in one month.

Dr. Deneen Evans with Mosaic Mental Wellness said it happens far too often.

“Too many. Too many of our young people of color in the valley have been dying as a result of gun violence,” Evans said.

Evans said these deaths are becoming the norm.

“We’re normalizing it,” Evans said. “Even the reaction of the community is not as loud as it was when we first was encountering it.”

Children are seeing instances of gun violence and threats against school safety.

Carilion child psychologist Dr. Kate Liebesny said that this impacts children’s brain development.

“One thing we talk about is survival behavior,” Liebesny said. “Kids who are under chronic stress learn to do things differently than kids who aren’t.”

But this stress isn’t just affecting children.

“Parents are dealing with these emotions also, and a lot of times we think it’s just the children but how are the parents responding,” Evans said.

Evans reminded parents that they need to address their own trauma before they can help their kids.

“When you’re on an airplane ... when the plane crashes you put the oxygen on yourself first, then your children,” she said.

Experts agree – there needs to be an open dialogue between parents and their children.

“Suicide rates among adolescents and teenagers are drastically on the rise,” Carle said. “Our kids don’t know how to handle conflict or handle these emotions. You see kids are just a lot more dysregulated. They’re seeking adults that are safe a lot more to be able to talk about their anxieties.”

Dr. Paula Wolfteich with Carilion encouraged parents to talk to their kids about violence in different communities, and address what questions they may have about their own safety.

“Making that time and space to talk to children. To listen to them, to not dismiss their fears, to provide that reassurance and dispel some of the myths that kids have about school violence,” Wolfteich said.

Experts encourage parents to tell their kids if they see something, say something.

About the Author:

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.