Every summer we see the tragic stories in the news that another young child has accidentally drowned. As parents, we know that drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children under the age of 4 and that is terrifying. The reality is that it can happen to any of us and all we can do is be extra vigilant around water.
Natalie Livingston is a mom of two ( an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old) who investigates drownings for a living. She penned a piece for Facebook group Aquatics Tribe that went viral with over 33,000 views. As VP for Aquatics Safety Consulting, her tips are not only thorough but include things only a person who has seen the worst of the worst would recommend.
She decided to write her own advice tips after realizing that many regularly mentioned safety tips just don't cut it. She wrote, "A lot of the advice isn’t practical and just highlights the problems." Livingston gives solutions. As much as you may not want to think about it, drowning does happen and it happens quickly.
It's the end of July, but we still have a bit of summer and water-friendly weather left. You can never be too careful.
Before Getting In, Hold a Safety Meeting
You know those boring before work meetings you endure to make sure everyone is on the same page? Have one with your kids. They may hate it and be anxious to get in the water, but remind them it's important. Before getting in the water, tell your kids all of the safety rules they need to follow.
Include where they can swim, when they can swim, where they can jump in, and how they can jump in. This quick yet important meeting is best to do when applying sunscreen. Include them and ask your kids what they think should be a pool rule too.
Teach Your Kids the Numbers
As your kids get a bit older, teach them the depth of the water in comparison to their height. Show them where they can touch the bottom and stand with their head above water, and where the water will get gradually higher. They should know where the water will begin to cover their mouth and where their whole head will be covered and where they will need to start treading. If your child can't tread water yet, they need to either stay where they can touch or wear a floatie, and be accompanied by an adult.
Limit Your Circle of Trust
When it comes to water safety and watching your kids, you can never be too careful. Consider severely limiting who you trust to watch them even if it's your mom or our best friend. For Livingston, it's only her and her husband. She agrees it sounds harsh but as she knows and says, "I see so many events where trust was placed in another person." Ultimately, you alone are responsible for your own children. If Livingston's kids are anywhere else like a pool party, or with grandma, they wear life jackets.
Take Designated Breaks
If you're diligently watching your kids, you're going to need a break after a little bit. Make sure your kids know that they will be taking occasional breaks every 30 minutes or so. This will allow you to get your kids some snacks to keep them happy and let them rest from swimming. Really, the break is more for you than them. Livingston gives time warnings and makes sure everyone gets out of the pool every single time she needs to step away.
How to Get Away
We know to teach our kids to swim but we don't teach them enough defensive swimming techniques. A common issue among young swimmers is when someone who is doing well is grabbed by someone who is struggling. This causes them both to go under. Teach your kids to suck, duck, and tuck: They should take a breath, go underwater, and tuck up their arms and legs to push away, and then get an adult as quickly as possible.
Water and swimming is extremely fun and refreshing, but you need to be honest about the dangers. Teach them the harsh facts and unknowns: A good swimmer can drown, show them what drowning can look like, make sure they know they can't breathe underwater or play holding breath games underwater and give them real reasons why. A healthy fear of the water is a good thing.
Always Check the Water First
In the event a child goes missing near water, always check the water first. Don't even bother with the house or start trekking around, if your child falls in a pool you need to get to them as quickly as possible.
Teach See Something, Say Something
It really takes a village. Teach your kids to pay attention and be aware of others and their surroundings while swimming. The five-second rule applies here. If they notice another child underwater for more than five seconds, its time to alert an adult. Livingston shares why this is important. She reveals, "Often, in drowning investigations we see kids (and adults) swimming over or around someone who is underwater and they don’t do anything." Usually, we assume someone underwater is playing and makes it clear to not assume.
Don't give in to distraction at the pool. Your phone and a book can wait. Let your kids keep you accountable if you seem to not be paying attention. Let them know that you should be watching them at all times.
Other things to consider in water safety that Livingston wants you to know: Swim lessons save lives, Lifejackets are cool, Keep away from drugs and alcohol, Use layers of protection (lifeguards, water watcher), Learn CPR.
What do you think of this advice? Stay safe out there!