As a mom and grandma, and having worked in the area of early childhood for many years, I believe most things in life are teachable moments. The subject of guns is no different but there are a lot of controversies surrounding children and guns.
Many people think we should shield all children from anything to do with guns. No pictures, no toys, no conversation. But does that really help them? Kids aren’t stupid and they aren’t sheltered.
They see things on TV, talk to other kids at school or while out playing. They know what’s going on and they are scared. They want and need to talk about it.
As a parent, you have the right to choose not to have guns in your home. However, if you choose not to have guns, your child still needs to learn about them and talk about them. They may not see guns in your home but they could in a friend’s home or even tossed under a bush at their local park.
It does a child no good just to hear you say you don’t like guns or don’t want them around. You’ll want them to leave it alone, but if you don’t even talk to them about guns, will they know that you don’t want them touching them?
And then what? Do they walk away, tell someone? Kids need very clear directions on what you expect them to do in certain situations.
If you teach your children about guns, you give them to tools to make fully informed decisions if they see or find a gun. You wouldn’t dream of just letting your child drive a car at age 16 without ever teaching them about driving.
We are constantly told to talk to our kids about drugs, giving them information and clear directions on what to do if anyone ever offers them drugs. Why would this be any different? Why would anyone not want to teach their children about gun safety?
Ignoring the subject of guns won’t make guns go away, no matter how much that is what naïve people hope.
Someone I know bought their eight-year-old an airsoft gun for Christmas. Then Sandy Hook happened. He immediately returned it to the store.
It made me sad because I felt he lost the chance to have the teachable moment with his son. He could have talked about guns, personal responsibility and safety, and that even with toys guns you always treat them like real guns.
As a parent that was his choice – but by ignoring the topic, he did not teach his child anything. He may even be setting his son up for failure in a dangerous situation in the future.
It’s easy in our society to ignore the things we don’t like and don’t agree with. Parents often think they are helping kids by sheltering them.
But that isn’t true. As parents we need to prepare our children as much as we can for the real world. Whether you are a gun owner or not, whether you believe children should have appropriate access to guns or not, step up, be a real parent – teach them about guns anyway.
You can’t always be there for your children and it’s your job to prepare them to make good decisions when you aren’t around. Their very lives depend on it.