It’s the time of year for sunshine, swimsuits and sunscreen. We pull out the pool toys and floats, light up the grill and hang out by the pool with friends or a good book. Unfortunately, it also is the time of year when we turn on the news and hear stories about kids drowning in pools or lakes because they couldn’t swim or conditions were not clear. We see the face of a grief stricken parent who just lost a child in what could have been a very preventable accident.
As a mom, one of my goals is to teach my children to be safe. We are talking about stranger danger, being careful around the stove or other hot items, and most often at this time of year –water safety. It is not enough to tell your kids to stay away from the pool anymore. In Texas, the number of water-related activities is so high that it is critical to know how to swim. Parents must prepare in advance to keep their children safe around water. It cannot be an afterthought.
Put up barriers to home pools.
You need a fence that wraps around the entire pool or a cover strong enough to dance on top without falling in. You also need to install a self-latching gate. These are not luxuries.
Have constant supervision on all children.
This is not the time to sit by the pool and catch up on Facebook or emails. We can’t turn our backs for a minute. Drowning is a SILENT killer and occurs in a very short time. In the movies they trick us into thinking we will hear splashing and yelling but more often than not that is just not the case.
Enroll kids in swim classes at a young age.
Some swim schools start babies as early as two months old with water acclimation. At Jim Montgomery Swim School we teach them to go underwater at 6 months and continue training at their pace. Children who have an early and consistent water experience in the first three years of life are ahead of peers socially, developmentally, emotionally, and cognitively (Griffith University Study 2014).
Create rules for the pool and enforce them.
We always invite our children into class by saying “1,2,3…” and then tell them what skill to execute. The same can be applied at home. We want to invite them into the water when the parent or caregiver is ready. This teaches children to be conscious of their safety and helps to prevent any accidents.
Become CPR certified.
Many new parents have attended CPR training courses to handle choking emergencies with their child. They rarely think of CPR certification for potential drowning situations. Being prepared is always a good thing!
Do not put flotation devices on children at the pool!
This is a HUGE issue for me. Life jackets instill a false sense of security. It is very important to get in the water with our kids and teach them about buoyancy — water does a lot of the work when floating and swimming. When you take a kid out of a life jacket for swim lessons, they often do not know how to trust the water. The only place I encourage the use of a life jacket is when you are boating on a lake or in the ocean.
Keep your kids safe by implementing these six steps, teach them to be water wise around the pool and start swim lessons at a very young age.
Don’t let your child become a statistic — almost 10 people drown in this country every day, according to the USA Swimming Foundation-Make A Splash. Drowning is preventable. It is up to us to make a difference.
Ellis Raymond is the early childhood director at the Jim Montgomery Swim School and the mom of two little water-wise swimmers. For more information about choosing the right swim lessons please visit www.usswimschools.org or www.jmswim.com