With hot weather right around the corner, many people turn to swim as their exercise and leisure activity of choice throughout the summer months. Many vacations, playdates, and family get-togethers are centered around having fun in the water and sun, which is the perfect combination to beat the heat, but the water can be dangerous.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), drowning places second as a leading cause of death for children 14 and under, coming in just behind car accidents. In the United States alone, approximately ten people die from drowning every day, making it imperative to talk to your kids about safety in the water.
Preventative measures, like teaching your children about the dangers of water and summer safety measures to take when swimming, are essential to reduce your child’s risk of drowning. Along with fatal drownings, non-fatal drowning accidents also see a significant spike in the summer months. Non-fatal accidents can cause serious injuries, from long-term disabilities to permanent brain damage. Whether you consider your child to be a novice or expert when it comes to swimming, drowning accidents can (and have) affected all skill levels. Proper and consistent supervision is the best way to prevent drowning.
Here are our top tips for discussing water safety with your children today.
Adult supervision is critical.
Undistracted, constant adult supervision is imperative any time your children are in the water. In the event of an emergency, an adult needs to be alert and aware immediately. This rule should be at the core of your entire water safety procedure plan and treated as a non-negotiable every time you and your family opt-in for a water day.
Always walk near the water.
Many water injuries, especially around the pool or in the bathroom, come from fast feet. Teach your children the importance of walking around the pool deck. The area around a pool is often slippery and slick from water, and a plethora of injuries can occur in a split second from running near a pool. From lacerations and broken bones from the fall to a direct fall into the deep end, running near water is dangerous for your little ones. Remind them to use their walking feet and lead by example. When you get to the pool, take a walk around it with them to remind them of the importance of action.
Ask permission to enter the water.
No matter your child’s age, they should be encouraged to ask permission before entering the water every time you visit a pool, lake, or ocean. Teach them early to actively invite you to join the water to encourage them to grow. This simple request and confirmation shows that both you and your children acknowledge their water entry and gives them the confidence to know that you are watching them closely. If they are new swimmers, it is best to enter the water with them when they ask permission.
Opt for a life jacket.
A lifejacket is an essential water safety tool that all new or non-swimming children should wear every time they are in or near water. This safety device provides a sense of security for both you and your child. Note that pool noodles and arm float devices are not approved or appropriate safety equipment for new swimmers. They do not help swimmers stay above water if they do not know how to swim independently.
Feet first is best.
Depending on the size and depth of the pool or body of water, diving headfirst can be highly detrimental to your child’s health, causing head injuries or even death. Always check for posted signs about diving before allowing your child to jump in. Only let them dive if they’ve been trained to do so and you feel comfortable with their level of diving skills. Feet first is always the best method, especially if you do not know the depth of the water. Remind your children of this often and set a precedent by entering the water feet first.
Water current matters.
Teach your children about the importance of understanding water current. Often, water currents, especially in rivers and streams, are unpredictable. Undertow can quickly pull your child under the water without them realizing they were in the wrong spot. Try to avoid areas that are off the beaten path when swimming outdoors, especially with children. If you know the area well and feel safe about the location and current, permission to enter can be granted at your discretion.
If you feel tired, exit the water.
Teach your children about the importance of recognizing their body’s reaction to playing. If they are in the water for an extended period, they may begin to feel tired. Sometimes, this can lead to them being too tired to get back to shore or to the edge of a pool, leading to drowning. For younger children, set a time limit on their water play and remind them to get out before then if they are feeling drained.
Avoid water antics.
Children are at an increased risk of drowning when they play rough in the water. Avoid wrestling, dunking, or tossing your children into the water, as this may encourage them to do it with their siblings or peers as they get older. Often, what one child can interpret as playful, another one can feel as struggling to stay afloat in the water. Speak to your child about avoiding water antics with their friends and discourage them from participating in it if you see it beginning during a pool session.
You, as a parent, play a vital role in the safety of your child in the water. Speak with your child about the risks that come with water play and discuss rules often and openly with them, so they know what to expect and how to handle themselves in the water. Enter the water with your child as often as you can so that you can monitor them closely. Sticking to a set of rules for water safety is key to avoiding accidental drowning and safely enjoying the summer.