6 Essential Water Safety Tips Parents Should Know
You cannot be too safe when it comes to water safety. Period.
A tragic truth is that two children under the age of 14 drown each day in the US. Mostly this happens in pools but also lakes, ponds, baths, sinks, toilets and even buckets.
It's heartbreaking, I know, and I'm sorry to hit you with such morbid facts. But in writing this article, my intention is to get the point to stick: You cannot be too safe when it comes to water safety.
Here are six essential water safety tips every parent should know:
Never Turn Your Back
Kids, and especially toddlers, get everywhere. They are little Houdinis capable of escaping, clambering and exploring where you least expect. As a parent, it's important to develop your internal water hazard radar. You don't need dowsing rods, but be aware of any bodies of water in your home, neighborhood, and wherever your family goes. Remember that for toddlers it only takes a couple of inches of water.
The simple rule is, when there is water around, don't turn your back on your kids. Drowning takes seconds. If you are going to grab a drink or use the bathroom, then take your child with you.
Set strict rules around water
Whether your kids can swim or not, teach them clear and strict rules about water safety. Things like...
- With home pools, never run, don't dive in areas not marked for diving, avoid alcohol, and if the weather gets bad, then get out immediately.
- At the beach, always swim where there are lifeguards and have a buddy system where children pair-up to look out for each other.
- By lakes, never swim without adult supervision and always wear aqua-shoes.
Repeat these rules often and make sure your kids understand by asking them to repeat the rules back and explain why they are important. You may feel like a drag, but this is important. Plus, you can always turn it into a little quiz with an occasional reward for top scores!
Have a designated adult on "water watch"
Being a parent is hard work. A family pool party is a welcome rest bite where adults can actually speak to other adults! It is all too easy, however, to get distracted and take your eye off the kids. Rather than all parents anxiously trying to keep half an eye on their children, designate one adult to be on "water watch". They shouldn't drink or be involved in any other activities, eg, barbecuing or mowing the lawn. It's a role that requires focus at all times.
Teach Your Toddler to Swim
Even if your toddler can swim, you'll still need to be hyper-vigilant about water safety. However, basic swimming skills save lives. If the worst happens and they get into water unassisted, then they'll be less likely to panic and will have a better chance of getting out again.
When teaching, take it slow. Keep it regular but fun. Applying too much pressure often backfires with children getting turned off swimming altogether. If either of you isn't enjoying learning this way, then enroll them in a local class where they may respond better.
CPR is an essential skill for a parent to have. In the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, you could save your child's life. It's easy to learn, so do it. There will be plenty of courses in your community. A quick look online will get you linked up in no time.
Avoid water borne nasties
Illnesses can occur when kids swallow or come into contact with contaminated water. Pools, ponds, lakes, fountains (and indeed pretty much any body of water) can harbor germs. Infections often involve diarrhea but can also affect eyes, skin or breathing.
To protect against these water borne nasties, teach your children to avoid swallowing water and don't let kids with diarrhea swim. For toddlers who aren't potty trained, swim diapers are a must.
Splashing, paddling, and swimming make for great childhood memories. Enjoy water and make the most of it. Just ensure that your whole family respects it and makes a habit of water safety. Not only will this help to protect your children, but in the future, they'll likely to pass these tips on to their kids, too.
Neve is a mother of two, keen swimmer and founder of WeTheParents. If you’re a parent looking to get your children active, she’s also written an extensive guide on kids scooters that you may find useful.