When you drop your child at a friend’s house for a play date, do you ever think to ask the parent if there is a gun in the house? Would your child know what to do if they found or were shown a gun? This weekend two stories caught our attention: 7 year old boy accidently shot and killed his 9 year old brother and 9 year old boy accidently shoots and kills 2 year old brother. It can and does happen, but it is preventable. When we read stories like this, we can’t help but fall back on our KidSafe Prevention Education Program. We wonder if these tradgedies could have been stopped by prevention education? In our first lesson, we teach children to find and use what we call their “Inner Safety Voice”. The Inner Safety Voice is that little voice inside their head that asks: Should I do this? Will I get into trouble? How can I get out of it? It looks fun but I could get hurt? Or simply, “Uh Oh”. We all have this voice inside of us (our intuition), but we need to train children to hear and then use their Safety Voice as a stop sign…to stop …think…and make a safer and smarter choice.
Gun Safety, a part of the first KidSafe lesson, provides the children practice using their safety voice in a gun scenario. While showing a picture of a girl and boy playing hide and seek we tell a story: “Joe and Molly are on a play date playing hide and seek at Joe’s House – Joe hides in his parent’s closet (KidSafe recommends parents bedrooms are off limits on play dates). Molly says “I found you” and Joe says, “You will never believe what I found…my dad’s gun! Want to see it?” This is when we discuss with the children: What is your Inner Safety Voice saying? What should you do? What should you say? We then role play this with the kids.
Acting out various safety situations is imperative. It creates muscle memory in children, and it is easier for them to recall the information at a later date because they have practiced (like an athlete). Teaching children to use their Safety Voice helps them to learn that they do not always have to react or respond immediately. So what should Molly say? ”No Joe it’s not safe – let’s get away from the gun.” We continue challenging the kids with questions – What if Joe won’t go or says, “Molly don’t be a baby my dad lets me see it all the time” We tell children to try to have your friend come with you…but if they won’t, you go to get help as fast as you can so you stay safe.
The next question we ask, and you can role play with your child is, “Should you take the gun to the grownup in charge?” The answer is NO! Under no circumstances should you ever touch a gun! You go tell the adult where it is and let the adult take care of it. We (the adults, of course ask….is this tattling or reporting? Find out the difference between tattling and reporting here. It is always reporting when it comes to the safety of us or the safety of others.
Listening to your Safety Voice and gun safety are conversations all parents can and should have with their children – further influencing your children to have a better chance of knowing how to make safer and smarter choices when faced with safety situations. KidSafe does not speak to the issues of the rights for people to bear arms – but we do say that if you have chosen to have a gun in your home than you also need to take the safety measures to protect your own children as well as the other family and friends that visit your home. Some common safety tips: Keep guns locked in a safe. Keep guns and ammunition separate. Have a child safety lock put on the gun itself. It is estimated that guns are in half of all homes in the United States.
Although most of these guns are purchased for safety reasons, it is important to keep in mind that a firearm in the home is much more likely (up to 43 times more likely in some reports) to kill or injure a family member or friend than an intruder.