**Just an added side note that when referring to “lifejacket” I am referring to a USCG approved lifejacket (check the inside of the jacket or vest). Noodles, Inflatables, baby circles, tubes, and all other items are not safety related and should not be used or trusted to keep your child safe. We see countless videos of kids who flip over in an inflatable ring and can’t right themselves and are stuck underwater upside down, or are in arm floaties and can’t get their head out of the water because their arms aren’t strong enough, or who lose purchase of a kickboard they were holding onto for floatation. Even in a lifejacket, you need to diligently and constantly supervise as children can get in positions that can still obstruct their airway especially if they are younger or weaker.
My kids know what drowning can look like. They know water is dangerous. They know good swimmers can drown. They know medical events can happen without warning. They know that drowning can happen quickly. I talk about how events happen, about what their weaknesses are. They know they can’t breathe in the water, they know why we take breaks from swimming, they know why they enter the water feet first, they know why we don’t play breath holding games or activities. It isn’t just because I said so, I try to give them real reasons to my rules. A healthy fear of the water is a good thing.
9. Hey, Watch This…
Phrases like “Hey, watch this…” usually are the beginning of something dangerous or a little crazy about to take place. This is a kids way of announcing they are pushing the boundaries or are going to show-off, and I take these phrases as a time to talk about danger and pushing boundaries. Are they just showing me something or are they about to do something risky? There is a difference and I try to talk about good decisions around the water. Phrases like “Hey, watch this…” are ways to cue into other people’s behaviors and intentions. They now alert me when others use these types of phrases too. I always say we can have fun without being dumb.
10. See Something, Say Something
My kids are part of my safety team. They are buddy watchers for each other and I ask them to look out for other kids. I’ll often ask my son where his sister is, or what the other person is doing. I want to train them to look at others and make sure they are okay, to know what they are doing. My daughter the other day said, “Mom, I almost called you…that boy was under the water and I counted from 5…5, 4, 3, 2, 1 but he popped up again before I got to 2.” I asked her, what would you do if he was still underwater when you got to one, and she said “I’d say something to you or an adult until you responded”. Perfect. Kids are an additional layer of protection and they have good instincts. My kids know not to assume someone is playing. If they see someone underwater, they start counting. So often, in drowning investigations we see kids (and adults) swimming over or around someone who is underwater and they don’t do anything. They assume they are okay, they assume they are playing, they assume they are doing it on purpose. Don’t assume. Teach them the 5 second rule (check out Mel Robbins book on the topic) and if they see something to say something.