It’s summertime, and your kids want to hang out at the pool. In fact, you want your kids to hang out at the pool. However, you also want your kids to be safe. There are several things that you can do to ensure that they are safe while swimming this summer. Most of the safety tips fall under the headings of supervision and education.
Children need to be supervised when swimming. If your child is young, he or she needs to be supervised directly by you. Toddlers and even young children should be supervised by “reach supervision”. These means, even if the water is shallow, you should never be out of arm’s reach of your child. A three-foot tall child can drown in one foot of water if they get face down and panic. You need to be right there to prevent water-related accidents and drowning.
Do not replace supervision with floatation devices. A child can drown in a floatation device the same way they can drown in a foot of water. It only takes the wrong combination of unlucky events. Until your child has demonstrated knowledge of water safety and swimming skills nothing should replace “reach supervision”.
If you send your children to the pool with a babysitter or some other guardian, make sure that they understand the importance of “reach supervision”. Even when the child is within reach, it is important that the supervisor is actually paying attention to the child. Drowning can happen quickly and silently so the supervisor must be vigilant at all times. It is important to remember that children don’t fight and splash when they are drowning; they just quietly slip under the water.
Eventually your child will learn how to swim and they will move beyond “reach supervision”. When that happens you need to educate your child about the dangers of drowning and they should demonstrate understanding before being allowed to swim beyond your grasp.
Education should start with formal swimming lessons. It is possible for you to teach your child to swim but formal swimming lessons focus on safety and other skills to keep them safe. The Red Cross programs focus on safety and accident prevention and they will instill the skills necessary for your child to be safe in the water.
Children should also be educated about dangers in their swimming environment. Teach then the “danger zones” in a pool. They should not swim below diving board, or beneath slides. They should also learn not to hang on ropes. Children should not swim in areas that aren’t served by lifeguards. The lifeguards will let the children know when the weather becomes dangerous, but in case your children do swim in unguarded pools, you should teach them the dangers of lightning.
Children should learn to look for posted rules when entering a public swimming area, and they should be taught to obey the rules. Some pools require that swimmers exit the pool for short periods of time every hour. Other pools have rules about the toys that are allowed in the water. Teach children to respect the rules of the pool.
Finally, children should be taught to respect the water. It is fun to swim in a pool but it is also dangerous. Sometimes kids, especially teenagers, want to roughhouse and play dunking games. Teach your kids that they should not wrestle or dunk other people when they are in a pool. Teach them the dangers associated with diving and how to use proper techniques to avoid accidents.
Kids can have a lot of fun at the swimming pool, but it is important that parents use supervision and education to make sure that the fun doesn’t become a tragedy.