With the return of the warm weather comes an increase in outdoor water activities, and the importance of going over water safety with our children and teens. I grew up swimming and spent four years teaching and lifeguarding, not only for the city but also for outdoor water parks. It was really important for me to encourage my children to learn how to swim and enjoy the peace that swimming brings, but also to appreciate the dangers that come with being in and around the water. While our family loves being in the pool, our children know that this privilege comes with several water safety rules.
After spending so many years in the pool, several which were spent lifeguarding, I have learned some essential water safety tips that I have applied to our own pool and any outdoor pool that are helpful to all parents and caregivers.
Children should always be supervised near an open body of water. This includes wading pools. While I know this one may seem like common sense, this is the first rule that is often broken when parents begin to gain confidence in their child’s swimming ability. One of the first thing that I learned in my years training was that many small children tend to drown in low water levels (wading pools are a great example of this). This is because they may fall forward due to lack of balance, this causes them to become scared and in turn they are unable to right their bodies. No matter how confident you are in your child’s ability or how low the water level is, you should always be within an arms length distance. You don’t need to hover on top of your child, or stop them from having fun, but you should be able to reach them within seconds. This will ensure that if the worst case scenario happens, you are able to grab or jump in to reach your child quickly.
Children should be wearing an approved life jacket in open water or pools. I get it that most children will not want to wear a life jacket (honestly we have this struggle in our own home) and for the most part this decision is up to you as the parent, but bear in mind that no matter how strong of a swimmer you feel your child is, accidents happen. If they can not swim a length of the pool without stopping, then it is a good idea for them to wear an approved life jacket. Speak with the lifeguard at the pool you are visiting and have them conduct a swim test. While they may be disappointed at first, they will enjoy playing in the water that much more when they are not exhausted from just trying to stay afloat.
As the parent, do not encourage your child to go above their comfort levels. After working in a water park for three summers, I am always amazed at what parents will encourage their children to do. If your child does not want to go down a water slide, don’t stress about it and definitely don’t make them. These are usually the same children who get scared at the bottom as the slide drops them into the water and become overwhelmed with the force of the water. Don’t force them off the diving board or even jump in the deep end.
Whenever you visit a new pool or lake, run through the posted rules or the agreed upon rules set by the pool’s owner. Read the signs with your child and remind them of your own rules (no pushing near the water, no running, no jumping on backs in the water,etc.). We all forget at times, I know I am tempted to run across the deck (and have fallen many a times doing so!) but the rules are there for a reason.
Carry a mini first aid kit with you or always know where the nearest one is. Slips and falls are common on a pool deck, so are bee stings and sunburns! I like to pack my own mini kit with bandaids, Polysporin and sunscreen. Knowing basic first aid is always helpful, especially when visiting unsupervised locations.
We want our children to have fun (trust me, I know I do!) but it is also important to be safe in the water. So many accidents can be prevented by following simple rules.
How do you encourage water safety during the summer months with your child?