I investigate drownings. I understand the realities of what can happen, often so quickly and quietly. I read a lot of water safety tips telling parents paying attention to their children and not being distracted, which is so important. We see so many news articles about drowning during this time of year, but a lot of the advice isn’t practical and just highlights the problems, so I decided to write my own list of tips to help.
Here is a list of 10 water safety tips I use to keep my own kids safe in the water.
1. Safety Briefings
This actually started with a swim lesson procedure of making sure they always asked permission before entering the water. I have expanded it by having a little meeting about expectations. My kids now know to wait (sometimes impatiently continually asking me “Mom, what do we need to know…can we go yet?!?!?”) until I give my briefing. I outline where they can swim, jump in, how they can jump in, and anything else safety related. A great time to do this is while applying sunscreen. They also know the consequences if they don’t follow the safety rules.
These meetings are a way for me to teach my kids respect for the water. They obviously know it is dangerous, knowing what I do for work, but sometimes aquatic centers, waterparks, beaches, and pools look so fun and enticing, that it is easy to forget. I think as parents we need to be just as concerned with the safety as we are with the fun, but that takes effort. I think some people may not want to ruin the fun by adding in rules, but I know rules create boundaries, which gives freedom in safety. I also love including my children in the safety briefings. What do they think the rules should be? What do they see as dangerous? They have some amazing insights too and sometimes see things I didn’t think of right away!
2. Depths of water vs. height
My kids know depths of water and how to read them on the pool deck, and they know what it means related to their height. My 6 year old knows that 4 ft of water is over his head, and 3 1/2 ft of water is up to his eyes, which is still over his airway. My 8-year-old daughter knows that 4ft of water is at her eyes and she will need to tread and can’t have her airway out at this depth. This piece of knowledge helps them to make good decisions and helps them to understand how water depths are different for each person. Their taller friend may have no problem in the 4ft area, while they would need to tread or have trouble touching. Awareness of depth in relation to their body is important. This keeps me away from the “But mom, Jayden gets to go over there…”. Yes, he does, he is also 6” taller than you are buddy!
3. How to Get Away
I jumped in last weekend fully clothed with my phone in my hand at my 8-year-old daughter’s all-star softball hotel swim session after a tournament. It was instinct, a 5-year-old boy panicked and grabbed onto a 4-year-old girl and they were both struggling. He was holding her down and trying to keep himself above the water. In I went and scooped both of them out. They were both naturally scared, and a little burping of water/air, but they were fine. We see this all the time in drowning events, swimmers who are okay on their own, have someone grab onto them because they are struggling and they can’t get away. I have taught, and I am still teaching my kids how to get away if someone grabs onto them. My daughter is a great swimmer, but I still don’t think she can tread water and keep her and another kid above the waterline. I’ve taught them to suck, duck, tuck: Suck in air if you can (get a breath), duck under the water (the struggling person doesn’t want to go there), and tuck (use your arms and legs to push away) – and then yell for an adult immediately to help the other person.
I’ve also taught them to be very careful of who they touch/grab onto in a pool. Even adults can be weaker swimmers and may have a hard time with them hanging on. Personal space is key.