(NEW YORK) -- Parents will often do whatever it takes to keep their children safe in their own homes. But what about the dangers that exist outside of their homes?
Parents who own guns and keep them in their home may take every measure to lock them up or teach children about gun safety. Whether or not parents keep guns at home, their children may encounter guns elsewhere, where parents might not be able to ensure their safety.
“If the parents themselves don’t own guns, the children are going to have friends whose parents own guns,” Marjorie Sanfilippo, a pediatric psychologist at Eckerd College, told ABC News. “I think the parents are going to be very surprised to see which of their friends actually own guns. It’s not something that parents talk about with one another.”
Having a dialogue with other parents or neighbors about whether or not they keep guns in their home can be beneficial to a parent, but parents may feel awkward or uncomfortable bringing up the subject.
Sanfilippo, whose youngest son is 14 years old, offered her advice to parents on how to respectfully ask other adults if they keep guns in their home.
- Don’t Ask in Front of the Kids: While it may or may not already be an awkward situation, parents may make the situation even more uncomfortable by asking while children are present. “They'll be embarrassed -- and probably mortified,” Sanfilippo said. “The parent may not be comfortable talking about guns in front of their children.”
- Make It Part of a Natural Conversation: If unsure how to bring the subject up, Sanfilippo suggests asking the parent if they saw a show on TV or heard about a recent shooting. “That opens the door to a conversation during which the parent can say: 1. My kid is so impulsive and curious, and 2. I don't have guns in my home [or they are locked up],” Sanfilippo said.
- Discuss Your Own Home: “Parents can also make it part of a bigger conversation about activities they allow [or] don't allow,” Sanfilippo said. For example, parents can also mention how they might not allow R-rated movies, violent video games, or swimming without an adult present in their own homes.
- It’s About Safety: When discussing guns in the home, Sanfilippo said the emphasis should be on safe storage and not ownership. If the parent does keep a gun in their home, ask what precautions they take to safely store the gun.
- Be Kind: “The research has shown that parents are not offended if asked,” Sanfilippo said. Just say it kindly. “‘I hope I didn't offend you, but I'm just not comfortable with my child playing in a house with loaded guns,’” Sanfilippo suggested saying. “‘Maybe the kids could play at my house.’”
Watch ABC News’ special Young Guns: A Diane Sawyer Special on Friday, Jan. 31, at 10 p.m. ET
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