“13-year-old Perryville boy drowns in Susquehanna River”
“13-year-old boy drowns after canoe capsizes in Jacks Fork River”
“4-year-old girl drowns while celebrating birthday.”
“6-year-old boy drowns at Spanish Oaks Reservoir.”
“Unattended Infant Drowns.”
“4-year-old girl drowns in Clarks Hill Lake.”
These are just 10% of the headlines about drowning in the past WEEK. This is devastating and scary and heartbreaking. I have a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, and like most of you, spend almost every single day at the pool. We even have a trip to a lake house planned in three weeks. I am filled with nerves and sick to my stomach over how quickly a drowning can happen.
I needed to be educated on water safety. I needed to put my know-it-all attitude aside and seek help. I grew up on the lake and I’ve been successfully swimming since I was three. My children won’t drown, no way, I know too much about the water and how to navigate around its beastly ways. What I don’t know, is how to juggle two toddlers in the pool and keep them 100% safe.
My children’s swim instructor, Deanna Mann of Run/Swim The Carolinas, agreed to sit down with me and make a list of life saving tips for all parents to know and practice.
Watch Your Kids
There is no better tool out there than your eyes. Always watch your kids when they’re around the water. This goes for older children as well. In fact, the first two headlines I mentioned involve teenagers. Parents have a unique connection with their children. By taking one look, you can tell if your child needs help. You can tell if your child seems confused, disoriented or out of sorts. Lifeguards are wonderful, but they don’t know your children the way you do. To that note, please don’t treat lifeguards like glorified babysitters. Having a lifeguard or two on duty does not mean you are off the hook. They are simply scanning the pool for dangerous activity. You are connected to your child and watching their every move.
Invest In Swim Lessons
I’ll be honest, my husband and I are very cheap. We had to talk ourselves into paying $2 extra a month to add another screen to our Netflix account. Ridiculous, right? Where we don’t cut corners is swim lessons. My two-year-old is learning so much about the water through her swim lessons. She’s learning how to blow bubbles, the first technique to breathing in and around water. She’s safely getting her head and ears wet, learning how to kick and float on her back (the greatest technique an infant can have in the pool).
My 4-year-old is learning the different swim strokes, how to hold his breath under water and swim from one end of the pool to the next. Can we teach them these skills? Sure. But let’s leave it up to the professionals to really teach our kids. Even if your child knows how to swim, investing in lessons is vital. They will learn different strokes, fine-tune their techniques and understand how to get out of a tough situation.
If you jump on the Red Cross website, you can type in your city and find local CPR classes. Fire Stations, Hospitals and Libraries also offer CPR classes. I can’t tell you the number of articles I’ve read on how parents saved their children due to CPR. In fact, there’s the story of a father who performed CPR on his 2-year-old daughter after she fell into a hot tub. The EMT told him if he wouldn’t have performed CPR when he did, she would’ve died. How incredible. That right there should be enough to encourage parents to become CPR certified.
Know The Bodies Of Water
The dangers of Pools: They can get overcrowded very quickly, making it hard to notice a child drowning. Some pools even have very powerful drains at the bottom that could pull even the most seasoned of swimmers down.
The dangers of Oceans: The extreme transition from shallow to deep is very dangerous. You can be playing in the shallow end, take one step too far and lose your footing. Rip tides and rip currents can take a child away in a second. It’s important for parents to first get in the water, explore the area around you and find the safest place for your children to swim.
The dangers of Lakes: If boating on a lake, every child needs to wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket. Most lakes are muddy, making it impossible to see the bottom. If your child goes under, it could take many minutes to find them.
The dangers of Rivers & Streams: Currents in both rivers and streams, in as little as 6-inches of water, can be extremely dangerous. Pair that with the slippery rocks and anyone can lose their footing. A family friend lost both of his sons last Mother’s Day due to a rapid river in Colorado. They were older boys and able to swim, but the river was too strong for them. Their father even tried jumping in to save them, but couldn’t fight the rapid river.
Have Flotation Devices Within Reach
Life jackets, pool noodles and safety rings are all fantastic flotation devices. Before swimming, spread these devices around the edge of the pool for easy access. If you see someone struggling, toss them a flotation device and either seek help or jump in yourself. We don’t recommend children trying to save other children. In that situation, advise your child to throw a flotation device and seek help. My son is 4 and can hangout in the shallow end without his puddle-jumper, but I have a very stern rule that he always hold onto a pool noodle.
Never Let Your Children Swim Alone
Use the buddy system. They know and love this system as it is used in schools for walking across streets and going on field trips. There will always be safety in numbers. My children love having jobs. If I tell them to look out for their friends and alert me if something seems wrong, they take it very seriously.
Do Not Hesitate To Call 911
Near drowning experiences are very real, some of them can turn into dry drowning (a type of drowning that has become known through recent tragedies). If a child is coughing uncontrollably, has a hard time breathing, if their heart is beating very fast, call 911. Hopefully it’s nothing, but it could be the one phone call that will save a child’s life. Nothing is to be taken lightly when it comes to children around water.
Enforce A Rest Period Every Hour
If you have lifeguards at your pool, you know the dreaded hourly break. Most parents hate this as it causes them to grab their kicking and screaming children out of the pool. You can use this time to encourage rest among your children. Have them sit in the shade and hydrate, reapply sunscreen and offer a light snack. During this time, ask them how they are feeling, if they’re tired and check to see if anything seems off. Dry drowning is a silent killer, but can be noticed by taking inventory of your child and the way they are breathing and behaving.
Get In The Water With Your Kids
Ok parents, I see you, sitting on the edge of the pool and refusing to get wet. You are your kids best teacher, they will learn by watching you. Show off your mad skills. Jump in the pool, hold your breath under water, use the butterfly stroke, doggy paddle and bust out some handstands. Your kids will not only have a blast with you, but they will see that swimming is an achievable sport. They want to be just like you, they really do, so give them something to live up to.
Get Your Kids In Shape
A healthy kid is a happy kid, right? If your child is jumping in the pool minutes after devouring a double cheeseburger and fries, the likelihood of them getting cramps is high. If your child is stuck in front of the television for hours a day and not exercising, swimming will be hard. Put their scooters and bikes to use, get them in shape and used to exhausting activities. If a child is struggling to resurface, knowing how to use their muscles is vital.
If You Are The Supervisor, Please, Don’t Get Drunk
I’m with ya, it’s a warm summer day and you’re poolside– bring on the booze! I love nothing more than getting a little tipsy while swimming in the sun. However, if you are the only supervisor for your children, refrain from getting drunk. You need to be of sound mind and body in order to be your child’s number one protector. Think of this as a designated driver– someone needs to be responsible.
Make this summer a fun one by practicing safety. Setting boundaries and rules will only put you of sound mind when taking your kids swimming.