Professional Resource

Member Exclusive


Abbey Hines, PsyD, HSPP; Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Newborn Follow-up Program, Director Division of Neonatology Riley Hospital for Children Indianapolis, IN

Editor’s Note: The topic of guns evokes strong opinions and emotions. On the one hand, gun violence and accidents involving guns in the home continue to shatter lives at an alarming rate. On the other, hunting is a time-honored, highly valued family tradition in much of the rural U.S. Finding an appropriate way for professionals to approach parents of young children on the topic of guns in the home is challenging, as one member expressed in a recent post on Member Connect:

I live in a rural county in upstate New York where a fair number of parents hunt. I don’t hunt myself, and I don’t know anything about guns. I believe that it would be useful to inform parents at a certain point that they need to include guns in their childproofing efforts—we’ve all seen articles about 3-year-olds and fatal incidents with guns—but I’m not absolutely sure what information to provide or when. There’s stuff online, but I don’t know how practical it is. Has anyone developed a practical and effective way to approach parents about gun safety and young children?


Several members have joined the conversation, but Dr. Abbey Hines offered especially sensitive, thoughtful, practical suggestions based on her experiences working with families in Indiana. We think her response is worth repeating!

Thank you for choosing to take on this often uncomfortable issue with your families! I work in NICU follow-up services at a children’s hospital in Indianapolis. My clinical service is primarily developmental assessment, so I usually only see families one time when the child is around 2 to 2.5 years old. Hunting is very common in Indiana, especially in the rural areas where many of our patients live.

I think there are many ways you can discuss gun safety, but the important thing is just to do it. Personally, I find that just asking directly and without judgment is the best way to deal with it. I include it with other safety issues, including car seat safety, smoking in the home, and access to medications/dangerous chemicals. My advice to new people in my clinic is to get comfortable with the questions and your responses because if you feel awkward, the conversation will feel awkward. I have worked with a few hundred families in this clinic and can only remember two parents who were unhappy about the question, but both were easily defused with a nonjudgmental attitude and a focus on safe storage. The Safety Store at my hospital also has free gun locks available, so I have a few of those in my clinic and can give one out if it’s needed.

Good luck finding the method that works for you!

-Abbey Hines

What a great example of the power of community! We encourage you to read through all of the responses to the discussion on Member Connect and to contribute your own suggestions and resources. Or post your own request for perspectives and ideas around a thorny issue that you’ve encountered. For more tips and resources on this important topic, visit the following sites:

Member Exclusive

This content is available only to ZERO TO THREE members. In addition to outstanding resources like this, ZERO TO THREE membership provides a wide range of valuable benefits and exclusive opportunities to connect with your peers.

Learn More about membership Already a member? Sign In