Did you know May is National Water Safety Month? Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4 and the second leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-14. Please read more about how to keep your children safe around water this summer.
For our family, summertime and swimming go together like babies and no sleep, or like pizza and tacos (that may be a perfect combo for only me — Mmmmmm). My kids have been water bugs since they were babies, splish-splashing in the bath until they have prune fingers and doggie-paddling in the pool or lake until their arms become wet noodles.
But a few summers ago, we had an experience that forever changed our understanding of how dangerous the water can be for little children.
My oldest daughter, who was two years old at the time, entered a pool without a floatation device and without me even seeing it happen. FORTUNATELY, my sister-in-law did see her and quickly jumped in to save her. When I realized what was happening, my brain could not send signals to my feet to move, because it was completely overloaded with thoughts of what could have been and how did this happen.
So here are a few things our family learned from that experience. I hope you read on because you can never be too careful. However, remember this is from my real-life perspective, and although I now read absolutely everything I find regarding water safety, I am no expert. A great resource is the comprehensive list of water safety tips can be found on the American Red Cross website.
Real-life tip #1
With little kids, the danger is not as much when everyone is in the pool together. Of course, you aren’t letting your two-year-old swim alone, you are right there with him/her. But when you are with a group (especially with a group) near water, even inside a home with a pool, you must maintain constant supervision of children. There are several ways to add extra layers of protection so you can prevent unsupervised access to pools, such as fences, gates, alarms, having kids wear life jackets at all times around water, etc. But you cannot rely on any of these alone. There is no better protection than to maintain constant supervision. And just because there are plenty of adults around to supervise, it doesn’t mean they are. The herd mentality assumes that even if when you are not watching, someone else is, while everyone else is probably thinking the same thing.
This statistic from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention really hit close to home: Drowning usually happens quickly and silently—many children who drown in home pools were out of sight for less than five minutes and in the care of one or both parents at the time.
When the cousins are all together swimming, we now assign a “lifeguard,” and as our family has grown this year, we will probably begin assigning two lifeguards. This allows that group supervision to continue, but it ensures that there is someone on strict duty. That person is stationed right by the pool entrance and maintains constant supervision. The lifeguard does not enter conversations or have other distractions, so he/she can concentrate on knowing where each child is at all times. The adults take turns as lifeguard and rotate about every 20 minutes.
Real-life tip #2
If you are near water and lose sight of your child, CHECK THE WATER FIRST! As mentioned before, you won’t hear or see any commotion if your child enters the water, and drowning can happen so fast. When seconds count, make them count. It the unthinkable happens, you also have an unbelievable advantage if you have been certified in CPR/AED. If it isn’t convenient for you to take an in-person class, the Red Cross offers an Adult/Child and Baby First Aid/CPR/AED Online course for only $25. I highly recommend investing in this training and asking your friends and family who are with your children often to take it, too.
Real-life Tip #3
Enroll your children in swim lessons at an early age. There aren’t many extracurricular activities that could potentially save your child’s life, but swim lessons could. Sign up for lessons offered at one of these places in Chattanooga recommended by our awesome Chattanooga Mom’s Blog followers: Southern Adventist University, UTC, Aqua-tots or the YMCA.