A discussion about parenting in traumatic times


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, having those conversations is important.

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

Another shooting broke out in Roanoke over the weekend, killing a teenager — that’s two teenage gun-related deaths in one month.

dr Deneen Evans of Mosaic Mental Wellness said this happens far too often.

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

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Evans said these deaths are becoming the norm.

“We’re normalizing it,” Evans said. “Even the community reaction isn’t as loud as it was when we first met.”

Children see incidents of gun violence and threats to school safety.

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

“One thing we’re talking about is survival behavior,” Liebesny said. “Children who are under chronic stress learn to do things differently than children who aren’t.”

But this stress does not only affect children.

“Parents deal with these emotions too, and a lot of times we think it’s just the kids, but how do the parents react,” Evans said.

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Evans reminded parents that they must address their own trauma before they can help their children.

“When you’re on a plane … if the plane crashes, you give yourself oxygen first, then your kids,” she said.

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

“Suicide rates among young people and teenagers are increasing dramatically,” Carle said. “Our children don’t know how to deal with conflict or with these emotions. You see, children are just much more dysregulated. They’re much more looking for adults who are safe to talk about their fears.”

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dr Carilion’s Paula Wolfteich encouraged parents to talk to their children about violence in different communities and any questions they may have about their own safety.

“Taking the time and space to talk to children. Listening to them, not dismissing their fears, giving them that reassurance and dispelling some of the myths children have about school violence,” Wolfteich said.

Experts encourage parents to tell their children when they see something to say something.

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