How to Talk to Your Kids About Gun Safety

Today, kids see guns on TV, hear news of gun violence and even have many toys that imitate real guns. Talking to kids about guns has become a topic that most parents have to tackle, but how?

How familiar kids are with guns can all depend on their family culture. While some families may have hunting firearms in the house or even go out often for target practice, other families may not own any firearms.

In any instance, the best way to keep children safe is to talk with kids about gun safety. Once your kids are of the age to start going over to friends’ houses, it’s a great idea for parents to ask if their friends have a firearm in the house. Even if you don’t keep a firearm in your house, you should prepare your child for what to do should they see one at a friends’ house. A study found that 55% of homes (with children living in the home) did not have their firearm locked away. The younger the child is, the harder it can be to curb their curiosity. If they see it, they may play with it. The best option is to remain vigilant about teaching your child what to do if they see a gun. Simply tell them if they see a gun to leave it alone, not to touch it and tell an adult.

By the time children reach middle school age, it is important to educate them about guns more specifically. At this age, children are likely more cognizant of media representations and we, as parents, need to let them know that gun portrayals on media are not accurate. Parents can help children be more thoughtful and cautious about guns by asking questions like “Do you think that was realistic?” and “How could they have solved that problem differently?”

At the high school age, gun education becomes even more important. As much as we don’t like to think about the negative feelings that could lead them to contemplate suicide, statistics show that 75% of teen suicides involve a gun and the gun is usually stored in their home, a relative or friend’s home. Furthermore, teens, who are not educated about gun safety, are also more likely to take risks and do so with a firearm. The best ways to keep them safe is to continue the conversation about gun safety and keep any firearms stored in your home locked away.

If you are a family that enjoys hunting and target practice, it’s important to teach kids how to take care of firearms and understand that using a firearm requires respect and discipline. The best way to do this is to not only make sure they take classes, but also to make sure that you are providing the support and parental education so that they understand guns are for specific, limited purposes.

Talking about guns with children has become an important factor of parenting these days, but it doesn’t have to be a scary talk. Knowledge is power. Teaching them about gun safety, and instilling a sense of respect and responsibility when it comes to firearms will empower them and hopefully comfort you, as a parent, that you are keeping them safe.

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Heather Listhartke is a mother to her beautiful toddler son. She's also pursuing her doctoral degree in rhetoric and composition with a focus on digital rhetoric, public rhetoric, and instructional design. When not mothering and studying, she creatively plans out her days, works with a variety of arts and crafts, and enjoys whatever few moments of free time that she can find outdoors.


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