Welcome back Ms Whitworth, our lovely guest blogger! Not only is she a great classroom teacher, she also knows a thing or two about water safety. She has been teaching swimming for about 6 years now with a private swimming company and has qualifications for both teaching swimming and teaching water safety/life saving with the Red Cross organization. She’s a perfect fit for you because she’s worked with all types of swimmers from very young to very old, terrified to too-comfortable-for-their-own-good, and everything in between. Without further ado…
I have been witness to how just a fraction of a second can make a difference between a teaching opportunity and a lost cause. Now, we all have enjoyed time at the beach somewhere or another and I’ve seen often enough in my time teaching and my own personal life, that there are times when parents get this anxious look on their faces and go into overprotective mode, and they have every right to. I would like to toss out some simple tips for how to talk to your child and use the family beach trip as a learning opportunity for water safety issues that are surprisingly common.
During the hot days of summer we all like to cool down with a nice refreshing dip in the lake, pond, pool, or whatever source of water we have near us! Many of us spend time at the waterfront or the many public pools that are now open for use. Being safe and knowing a few things about how to help prepare your kids for fun and fantastic times in the water is crucial, more so during the summer when we are all more likely to be around water. I am going to give you a few tips for things to watch out for, things you should make sure your kids know, and what precautions you can take to ensure the safest summer yet!
The number one cause of death in children is drowning. This can happen in just a few centimetres of water, but generally tends to happen in deeper waters like a pool, lake, or ocean as a result of any number of factors. As a parent, talking to your children about things such as the buddy system or making sure there is always a responsible adult watching when you swim is sometimes even more crucial than taking swimming lessons or being in the water with your child. I will offer a few tips and try to explain them as best I can about how to talk to your child, what steps to take as precautions, and how to have fun in the water!
Communication is always such a good tool and starting as young as possible in the water- even if it is just the bath tub- is a great idea! Let’s start with talking. As soon as your child can understand you, the parent should start explaining simple concepts such as make sure you have a responsible adult watching you. Communicating to your child that no matter how amazing a swimmer is, we all get tired or injured sometimes even though we take all necessary steps to prevent that from happening. As a swim instructor myself there are still times I get cramps in my side after swimming for extended periods of time! Things to ingrain in your child’s mentality about being around water are as follows:
1) it is FUN!,
(2) there are many things you need to do to stay safe, and
(3) even the best swimmers need to take certain precautions.
Water is fun and developing that sense of playfulness in your child is a great thing, but do it with care and show them how to have fun and not take uncalculated risks at the same time.
Swimming lessons are great at helping develop the skills needed to be a safe, strong swimmer, as well as teaching safety lessons, but not everyone can afford them or is around water enough that they feel it necessary to have their children go to lessons. This is not by any means a plea to invoke my beliefs about swimming on anyone; I am merely trying to provide information to help make this summer great!
The use of the buddy system is a great way to stay safe in the summer when you are around water. It is a simple concept that basically entails that you are never alone around water, you always have a friend with you to watch you, help you, call for help if it is needed, and you do the same for that friend. Even now, after my years of experience — and probably because of it! — I still use the buddy system when swimming at my cottage. It is just another way to make sure that if something does happen, even though you’ve been as safe as you can, that you get help sooner rather than later! Rather than making this a long and tedious article on the statistics and technical ways of water safety I am going to give you the most important precautions, steps, ideas for you to make use of yourself however you see fit.
Top 15 tips to be safer in the water this summer:
1. Make sure to use the buddy system
2. Make sure you know your limits as a swimmer and don`t go past them on your own
3. As a parent, ensure that you, or someone who is responsible and qualified, is ALWAYS watching your children when they are in the water
4. Take swimming lessons (there are a variety of kinds, prices, and locations to suit a multitude of needs)
5. Make use of bath time to teach simple ideas such as how to breathe under water
6. Know the body of water you are swimming in. For example, is it really shallow, really rocky, does it have a strong current that could cause problems for weaker or tired swimmers?
7. Use common knowledge and common sense. For example, if there is a thunderstorm outside, don’t go near the water until the weather is clear or don’t swim in a place known to have strong currents and undertows
8. Know the basic signs of drowning and the four types of swimmers. They are: tired (they usually are out of breath and moving slowly), injured (either with a muscle cramp or as a result of an unsafe choice made such as jumping into unknown waters), unconscious (they are usually face down in the water not really moving), and non swimmer (usually they display the ‘typical’ drowning look with hands flailing and yelling for help). Knowing the types of swimmers will help you stay away from unsafe swimmers as well as get them help if you notice they need it.
9. Make sure your child (ren) know how to get help from responsible and safe adults (moms, police officers, lifeguards, etc.) in the community when they are around water
10. Teach your child about water safety. You can find information on the Red Cross’s website at www.redcross.ca under the tab ‘how we help’
11. Teach your child that listening is just as important, if not MORE IMPORTANT, in the water than anywhere else!
12. Use beaches and pools where lifeguards are present and on duty
13. Teach kids how to tread water (this is where they stay above water by moving their hands in a figure 8 motion, and kick their legs as if they were riding a bike) so that they can stay above water if they happen to fall into a pool or lake
14. Talk to your child about why it is necessary to stay alert and know everything you can about the water you are in before swimming and give them some of the simple statistics which may help older children understand the gravity of water safety issues.
15. Do not ever let your child dive into unknown waters — no matter how well they can swim! Always go feet first; your feet will heal a lot easier than your brain if there is something dangerous about the water (as cynical as that sounds)!
Have any questions? Ask away!