UT Extension Responds to Orlando Shooting

Talking with children

A University of Tennessee Extension expert from the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences has suggestions on how to talk with children about terrorism and how to facilitate a conversation about the root of it all: different beliefs.


Many parents feel the need to protect their children from the harsh realities of violence, especially when the attacks are so close to home. However, talking with children about the role of tolerance is paramount in response to the recent shooting in Orlando, Florida.

A University of Tennessee Extension expert from the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences has suggestions on how to talk with children about terrorism and how to facilitate a conversation about the root of it all: different beliefs.

Heather Wallace, assistant professor and human development specialist, stresses that children may be exposed to information about acts of terror and overt reactions to different beliefs more frequently than we realize. She suggests parents consider managing this by:

1. Pay close attention to the media your child is exposed to. Try to avoid violent images.
2. Avoid making generalizations about entire groups of people. 
3. Let your child ask questions.

Although talking with children about tough subjects can be uncomfortable, it is important to let your child know that the door is always open to discuss things they fear or have questions about, says Wallace. She adds that helping children learn the difference between fact and opinion is an essential skill that contributes to a more tolerant community and nation.

People dealing with emotional distress from the Orlando shooting or any other disaster are encouraged to use the Disaster Distress Helpline. Wallace says you may call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 for support and counseling. The Disaster Distress Helpline is a national hotline that provides 24/7, year-round crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories as a service of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Spanish-speakers should text Hablanos to 66746. English speakers in U.S. territories text TalkWithUs to 1-212-461-4635.

Calls and texts are answered by trained, caring counselors from crisis call centers located throughout the United States, says Wallace. For more information about dealing with incidents of mass violence from a mental health perspective, visit the SAMHSA website: http://1.usa.gov/1U3QJ3n

For additional information about child development and parenting, you may also contact your local county UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent at the county Extension office.

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu

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Contact:

Dr. Heather S. Wallace, UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences, 865-974-7193

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