Stapleton Pediatrics Blog

ASK (Asking Saves Lives)

As a general pediatrician, I am privileged to spend my days with kids of all ages and their parents, combating illness and discussing healthy life choices, all in an attempt to help children feel well to enjoy a happy childhood and to pursue their hopes and dreams as they mature into young adults. It truly is an awesome responsibility filled with challenges, from trying to properly examine a sick and uncooperative child to discussing how children deal with their parent's job loss or divorce; yet, it is also incredibly rewarding to literally watch kids grow up as they become the next generation of doers in our society.

By their very nature, children are curious and impressionable. They notice what is going on in their environment and they try to emulate the adults in their world. In my daily work, I have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of what children are thinking and what they think is cool, since they often simply just say what's on their minds.

Recently, I had a family of three kids, ages 3, 5 and 7, come to my office for their annual well check-ups. Upon entering the room, the 3 year old exclaimed, "I want to be a doctor when I grow up!" The 7 year old, trying to outdo his younger sister then proclaimed, "I want to be a brain surgeon when I grow up!" As I looked at the mom with her beaming smile, the 5 year old yelled at the top of his lungs, " When I grow-up, I'm going to be a sniper!" It was hard not to laugh at his enthusiasm and passion, yet glancing over at mom, I saw her smile disappear as her eyes opened wide, her jaw dropped and she turned a lovely shade of pink.

Why was wanting to be a sniper so exciting for this cute little 5 year old? To me the answer is simple, for this young child, the life of a gun wielding tough guy was cool, glorified and powerful as he probably witnessed, not from watching a mature TV episode or movie, but as he read about it in a kid's book or comic or watched in a cartoon.

Take a child with innate curiosity and a passionate excitement for guns and let him roam around a home with an unsecured, loaded gun. Once found, the likelihood that this child will play with or experiment with the weapon are high, and unfortunately and frighteningly the chances of a misfire leading to severe injury or death are not only possible, but very probable.

I am often asked what questions parents should ask other parents when they are trying to arrange a play date for their children. Safety concerns top the list, such as whether the family has pets, who else will be home during the play date or whether any of the children have allergies. However, what may sound uncomfortable to mention, yet is likely the single most important question to ask is: "Is there an unlocked gun in your house?" This simple question can save a curios child's life, and therefore, must become normalized in every play date discussion.

Many parents feel intimidated or awkward to ask another parent if they have an unsecured gun in their house. Further, in today's political climate, they are concerned that asking a question about guns will open a sensitive topic, possibly leading to a debate that they would much prefer to avoid. Yet, when thinking about the potentially awful consequence of not addressing this clear safety concern, parents are not only doing a disservice for their child, they are also putting their child in severe danger.

One of the most important jobs for a pediatrician is to support parents through the long and winding road of parenting. As such, I try to convey to the parents in my practice that although some aspects of parenthood may seem unnatural at the start of the parenting journey, they become natural as they become normalized in our daily living. Asking another parent if they have an unlocked gun in their house becomes more comfortable with every passing play dates, and ask any new parent, there are never a shortage of play dates.

So, take this powerful proclamation by Governor Hickenlooper on Asking Saves Kids Day and remind parents to ask one more simple question before the play date: "Is there an unlocked gun in your house?"

Posted: 6/29/2018 11:19:37 AM by Stapleton Peds | with 0 comments

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