Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Swimming Safety

by Malina

We were playing at a backyard pool. My younger son was playing in a small wading pool area. Since it was quite small, I was not in the tub with him but standing next to him. My older son called for me to watch as he paddled across the rest of the pool without touching the bottom. When I turned back to my younger son, he wasn’t visible. I looked down and he was on the bottom of a deeper part of the wading pool, flailing and looking terrified. I reached in and grabbed his arm and pulled him up out of the water. He was coughing and upset but otherwise okay. I hadn’t been watching him for about thirty seconds.

Swimming is so much fun, but water can be so dangerous too. Drowning is one of the top causes of accidental death in children. It is a swift, silent killer. Most children who drown were seen less than 5 minutes before and the caretaker got distracted by a phone call, doorbell, etc. Children can drown in as little as 1 inch of water in less than 5 minutes. There are usually no cries for help. They slip under the water quietly and typically lose consciousness in less than two minutes.

There are plenty of stories out there about children drowning while supervised. So what can we do as a parent to help protect our children from drowning?

* If your child is under 5 or not a confident, capable swimmer, you should be in the water with them always. Even in a wading pool. They need all of your attention. Play with them and keep them safe in the process! It is much more fun to play with your kids than to sit on the side anyway.

* Older children need supervision too! Children between 6 - 9 are likely candidates for entrapment by a underwater drain.  Pools and spas with only one underwater drain are especially likely to cause this.  Make sure the pool you are swimming at is safe and that your child knows not to play near the underwater drains.

* If you have several children to watch by yourself at the pool put lifejackets on young children or non swimmers. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t trust in the lifeguards to help keep your kid safe. When we are at the ocean, I have aunts and uncles help watch kids. My kids know they cannot play in the water unless they are with an adult and I know about it.

* Absolutely no texting, web surfing or phone calls while your children are playing in the water. Distractions = children dying. Talking with friends is fun, but can be distracting too - another reason why you should BE IN THE WATER with your kids.

* Teach your child to swim and make room for swim lessons in the budget or teach them yourself. It is worth every penny and minute of your time.

* Learn CPR and basic water rescue. Take a review course if you have learned in the past but don’t remember all the specifics. There are so many times you are playing in water that a lifeguard is NOT present. The beach, the lake, a backyard pool, even at home in the tub. Being able to respond immediately with CPR can save your child’s life.

* Before you send your child to camp this summer, know the qualifications of the caretakers. Question them thoroughly. Are they current certified for CPR? Where is the rescue equipment and protocol? How often do they do drills with the lifeguards?  How will non-swimmers be labeled for easy identification? Counselor to child ratio is not enough info!

* Be aware of hidden dangers at oceans, lakes, ponds and backyard pools. Toddlers will walk or ride trikes right into the water. Keep doors and fences locked if there are pools in the yard. Rip tides can pull even strong swimmers out to their deaths. Wear life jackets on boats.  Don’t let kids to play in backyard pools unattended.

Water can be so much fun and yet it can be so dangerous too.  Take care of your kids around water.
What are your thoughts and tips for water safety?

Image: Arvind Balaraman /



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