A Parent's Common Sense Guide to Water Safety

Written by: Kathy Ryan

I think every parent understands that gut-wrenching feeling of being near a body of water and knowing that your children are not capable of swimming. A few summers ago, my husband and I spent many sleepless nights worrying about that very thing when we planned a vacation with a nearby pool - our children were not strong swimmers. It was an experience that I truly believe led me to open a swim school in the city. As the owner of Goldfish Swim School, in Roscoe Village, and a mother myself, I am reminded every day of why it is necessary to teach children to swim, and it is such an exciting and empowering feeling to be able to help kids learn the skills that will keep them safe in the water for the rest of their lives.

The key to children’s water safety really is using common sense. As parents, it is our responsibility to be aware of our children’s swim abilities and to be proactive about teaching them the necessary skills to keep them safe. At Goldfish, we believe that children aren’t fully safe in the water until they have learned the proper stroke techniques and built up their endurance; a strong swimmer is a safe swimmer! Teaching children not only to be comfortable in the water, but also to respect the water and its possible dangers are essential to water safety. As parents and care givers, we can also follow simple steps such as keeping toys away from the side of the pool or having your children use the buddy system while swimming. In addition, the American Red Cross’s tips on water safety detail some basic guidelines to keep in mind while planning your summer swimming:

1.     “Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water.” Although drowning is the second-leading cause of death among children, many drowning cases can be prevented simply by having a parent or guardian present. Teach your children the importance of having parent supervision while swimming.

2.     “Actively supervise children whenever around the water—even if lifeguards are present. Do not just drop your kids off at the public pool or leave them at the beach—designate a responsible adult to supervise.” Many parents make the mistake of relying on lifeguards to keep their children safe.  Proper supervision of children in the water includes not only watching your children, but also being aware of where the lifeguards are and that they are alert and ready to respond. Lifeguards do not double as a parent or other responsible adult who is watching only your child.

3.     “Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.” Lifejackets are great tools for water safety and are much safer than other floatation devices such as water wings or noodles. However, lifejackets should always be used in addition to, not in place of, other water safety skills. If your children are swimming with lifejackets regularly, be sure to take them off and allow your children to swim with you or another responsible adult and teach them the skills necessary to be a strong swimmer.

Simply being mindful of these safety tips and giving your children the skills necessary to be strong swimmers can help make your summer both fun and safe!  Learn more about swimming classes at Goldfish Swim School for children starting at age 4 months old.

Posted on May 21, 2013 at 2:54 PM