For many people, summer equals freedom: school breaks, family vacations and more outdoor time – especially at the beach or a pool. May is National Drowning Prevention Month and there’s no better time for a refresher on water safety.
Under controlled circumstances, like Swimtastic classes and events, instructors are fully trained in water safety and provide pool safety guidelines to students and participants. Eager to learn and eager to please, students are happy to comply with the rules that ensure their experience is enjoyable. But the loose, less-restrictive nature of vacations and pool parties can mean that children (and even adults) temporarily forget water safety basics.
For a joyful summer that includes time at the beach or a pool, review these water safety guidelines with your children, loved ones, babysitters and caregivers:
- Make sure everyone knows how to swim. Formal swimming lessons offer a two-pronged approach to reducing the risk of drowning. The first, of course, is teaching students how to stay afloat. But even more important is the formalized presentation of water safety. In addition to making sure children know how to swim, make sure adults who supervise children near water also know how to swim.
- Don’t swim alone. Even the best swimmers are at the mercy of water conditions or sudden health issues that can lead to drowning. Think of swimming as a social activity; whenever possible, swim with a buddy.
- Never leave a child unattended in or near water. Even if a lifeguard is present, it’s important to always be aware of your child’s location. Drowning is quick and silent and is not always preceded by a visible struggle in the water. A child can drown in a matter of seconds. Likewise, a child can drown in any depth of water, even the shallowest stream or even a bathtub.
- Keep within arm’s length of an infant or toddler. Touch supervision is always necessary with infants and toddlers. Make sure you are always close enough to touch curious crawlers and wobbly walkers whenever they’re near water.
- Divide and conquer water supervision duties. Rather than fight the urge to check your phone, enjoy a summer read or prepare a meal, organize 15-minute “water watcher” duties. Parents aren’t completely off the hook when children are near or in water, but a designated water watcher takes some of the pressure off you. The water watcher’s only duties are to know how many children are near or in the water and to repeatedly count heads. Keeping the water watcher shifts at 15 minutes means fresh eyes will always be on duty. Like a designated driver, a water watcher should be a sober adult who knows how to swim.
- Flotation devices are not water watchers. Floaties, water rings and even U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are not substitutes for human supervision. Drowning can still occur when a child is wearing a flotation device. Children are often introduced to these devices as a way to build water confidence so they may feel empowered to take additional risks in the water while wearing them.
- Never leave your child in an environment with unprotected access to water. It may not be a conversation you’ll enjoy, but if your child is invited to a pool party or to the beach with friends, you need to ask the host about water supervision and safety hazards. If you have a pool or spa, instruct your babysitter about water supervision or restrict water access while you’re gone.
- Keep a charged phone with you. Don’t assume someone else at the pool or the beach can call for help in an emergency. If you’re worried about your phone getting lost, stolen or falling in the water, investigate clever storage options related to all three of those issues.
- Discourage risky water behavior. Nobody wants to be the parent who constantly yells, “No running near the pool!” or “Stop dunking your brother!” But roughhousing and other risky behavior often result in injury or drowning. Discouraging or correcting this behavior can help save a life.
For many people, summer isn’t summer without time at the beach or poolside. By taking water safety seriously, you can ensure that every water experience is happy and fun!