Water Safety Reminders
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Often, I get asked by a parent when their child can swim on their own without them being nearby, when they will be too good for lessons, or when they will be “drown proof”. Whenever these questions are posed to me, I always respond with the same word; never.
My answer usually catches parents off guard, and I can see them question why they are paying for lessons if none of these things will be feasible. I promise that my response isn’t ever meant to make you feel as if your child isn’t a fantastic swimmer or progressing in the lessons you are paying for, and it also isn’t meant to make you feel like you are a bad parent and that you need to justify why you asked these questions.
There is a list of basic life skills all parents instinctively know they must teach their children to keep them safe and healthy. It includes habits like looking both ways before crossing the street, washing your hands with soap and water and eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables every day. As they grow and develop, the things you teach your child will change; instead of how to brush their teeth, you may be teaching them how to drive a car or how to deal with stress at school.
For too many parents, safety in and around water stops when they are “good enough” or doesn’t make the list; and that’s something we need to change.
Fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years old and the fifth-leading cause overall. Each day, ten people will die as a result of unintentional drowning, two of these being children under the age of 14.
The Y is committed to reducing water-related injuries, particularly in communities where children are most at risk. During National Water Safety Month this May, we want to remind parents of a few tips from Y-USA to ensure it’s an enjoyable and safe experience.
- Never swim alone. Teach your children that they should only swim in locations where a lifeguard is on duty.
- Supervise your children whenever they’re in water. Whether it’s bath time or taking a dip in a pool or lake, make sure your children are within arm’s reach at all times.
- Don’t engage in breath holding activities. Children shouldn’t hold their breath for a prolonged amount of time while swimming, as this can cause drowning and has several other severe physical side-effects.
- Wear a Life Jacket. Inexperienced or non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Don’t jump in the water to save a friend who is struggling in deep water. If a child finds their friend in deep water unexpectedly, their natural reaction may be to jump in the water to try to save them. Even if a child is a great swimmer, a panicked person will overpower them, pulling them underwater with them. The Y’s programming teaches the “reach, throw, don’t go” concept of using a long object to reach for them and pull them to safety. By using this technique children can help their friend without compromising their own safety.
- Enroll your children in water safety or swim lessons. Just like teaching your children to look both ways before they cross the street, participating in formal water safety lessons teaches them an important life skill. The Y’s swim lesson programs teach children fundamental water safety skills and what to do if they find themselves in water unexpectedly.
Stephanie Kaufman Greater Green Bay YMCA
West Side YMCA Aquatic Director