As the mother of two young boys, I have so many great memories of times spent in the water with my sons. Playing at the waterpark, swimming in the pool, tubing on the lake… These are wonderful moments that I will cherish forever. However, there is one memory with water that is not a good one. In fact, it was terrifying. When my youngest son was just 18 months, we were playing out in our yard and I watched as he toddled over to our baby pool. He leaned over the edge, lost his balance and fell in. Now, I was right behind him and it only took me a couple of seconds to reach him and get him out, but for the rest of the day, I played the “what if” game. What if I had not been there to grab him? What if there had been more water in the pool? What if? What if…
Every summer you hear the terrible stories of accidents in the water. So, as a parent, how do you ensure that this does not happen to your family? There are some very simple steps to helping you and your family to be water conscious and safe during these glorious summer months!
Keeping your kids safe around water is about more than just having the right gear. Drowning is one of the most common accidents that can happen with kids under the age of 14. It only takes a couple of minutes and can occur in just a few inches of water. So, you need to ensure that not only you are in the right frame of mind when you are around water but that your kids are as well.
The first thing you should do is to always be attentive when you are around water. This may seem like a no brainer, but it only takes a moment of distraction, the phone ringing, another child with a scraped knee, etc. for the unthinkable to happen. You want to be sure, especially if you have very young children that are just learning to walk, that you do not leave anything around your yard that can accumulate water. Buckets, fountains and other deep items that can collect water can actually be a drowning hazard, even if they are not completely full. If you have a baby pool at your house, you should empty it after every use, turn it over or put it away so it cannot collect rainwater. Only fill it when you are using it with your kids.
Next, teach your kids to swim! Some experts say that kids as young as 6 months of age can learn to swim. And though the jury is still out on this one, it is never too early to get them used to being in the water. There are a multitude of places that offer swim lessons for children of all ages. Goldfish Swim School (www.goldfishswimschool.com) has locations all over Michigan and specializes in teaching infants and toddlers to swim. Most communities in Metro Detroit have a YMCA that offers swim lessons as well (www.ymcadetroit.org). Then there are tons of neighborhood pools and local high schools that also offer swim lessons. You can contact your local high school or Chamber of Commerce in your city to inquire about where and when lessons are available.
Next, be sure to have the proper safety gear for your kids. When you are at the lake, pool or on a boat, it is essential to have proper fitting, US Coast Guard approved life vests for your children. Even if they are a strong swimmer, by law, kids of certain ages must be in the proper floatation devices when on a boat or operating a personal watercraft. Visit www.michigan.gov for Michigan requirements concerning children and life jackets. Water wings and blow up inner tubes are not sufficient safety equipment for kids in the water. Be sure that you choose a life vest that is the correct style (there are different types of life vests available with more head support for infants) and that is accurate for the weight of your child.
Teach your kids how to act around water. This means no running at the pool, NEVER holding other kids under the water when playing around and just generally being aware of the water and the potential hazards that can go with it. You are not trying to scare them or take the fun out of the water. You just want to make them aware for their own safety. For older kids, remind them to be calm if they fall into the water and what they should do if this happens (remember to remain calm, try to swim to safety, if they get tired, float on their back, DO NOT PANIC). Instruct them to always be aware of the temperature of the water they are getting into. Very cold water can shock the system, making breathing escalate and blood pressure rise essentially making it harder to breath and easier to panic.
Get certified in first Aid and CPR. This is just a good idea for anyone that has children. However, if you spend a lot of time around the water, it is a GREAT idea to be certified. It is best to know what you may need to do in any given situation and know that you are prepared.
Michigan only gets a few months of beautiful, sunny weather that allows us the luxury of being in the water… We love to take advantage of this time to splash, play and enjoy those wonderful summer months. The main thing when creating these memories with your family is to be aware, be safe and have fun!