As a former water safety instructor and lifeguard — and likely more importantly the daughter of parents who experienced a toddler drowning — I take water safety extremely seriously.
The many parents who have, unfortunately, experienced this tragedy know these accidental drownings take mere seconds to occur and are most likely to happen when children aren’t expected to be swimming. Professional athletes and parents Bode and Morgan Miller have worked with the American Association of Pediatrics to share information about drowning and water safety following the super sad drowning of their 19-month-old daughter.
My children and I spend the bulk of our summer at a great park that has a beach and a man-made pond. We enjoy our fun in the sun and love the community there, but most of all I love their rules (and the lifeguards who enforce them) that encourage safe swimming. The more we can emphasize to our children swimming etiquette (never going into water alone, and as they grow only swimming within their abilities), the better chance we have at protecting them. Here are four quick tips to help promote safe swimming this summer for your kids.
Designating a water watcher
Drowning is the single-leading cause of death among children ages 1-4. What’s worse is that in 69% of these cases children were not expected to be in or around water at the time of drowning.
A great idea to combat this shocking statistic is to designate a water watcher anytime there is water present. A great resource for this is a printable water watcher card (laminating helps, too). This physical card helps ensure an adult is actively aware of the water and children, and the responsibility can be shared instead of assumed.
Shop swimwear wisely
There was a pretty viral post floating around social media this spring that caught my attention. Aquatic Safety Connection, which emphasizes the importance of brightly colored swimsuits for kids, did a great job compiling data of different colors and testing them both in a pool and a lake setting. It’s a great resource to check out when buying new swimsuits!
Use Coast Guard approved life jackets
One of the things I retained from my years as a lifeguard was the importance of using Coast Guard approved life preservers. This ensures children would remain face up in water should they ever be in that situation. For me, having my children wear life jackets around water is a non-negotiable — it’s just something we do to stay safe.
Take swim lessons
I’m a firm believer in swimming lessons. Throughout my years of taking swimming lessons, then teaching Red Cross certified swimming lessons, to now observing my children’s swimming lessons, I cannot stress the importance of them. They are not simply about learning to swim, they educate children on water safety, how to help others in distress, how to float or tread water if they were ever stuck in water and needed to conserve energy, and, of course, proper swim stroke. Teaching our children to swim safely is a life skill. It is, in my opinion, especially important to continue swim lessons throughout adolescence, as swimming is also a top cause of death among teens. Teaching our children how to swim is important, but instilling in them a respect for water and their own abilities may just save their life.
I’m not an expert in water safety, but I am a mother who is navigating parenting while trying to shield my children from injury. I hope you are able to use these tips to stay safe with your little ones as well. Happy summer!