The Water Safety Conversation Every Parent Should
Have with Their Kids
The thought of a child drowning is terrifying. Unfortunately, that may be one of the reasons most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking or talking about it. As much as we want to avoid talking about uncomfortable topics with our kids, the reality is that drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children of all ages! Another reality is that most drownings are avoidable. Talking with your kids about water safety isn’t an option. But, how do you actually have these hard conversations? And where do you start? Here are some tips:
Be Truthful About the Danger
It can be tempting to sugarcoat serious issues or skirt around them because you don’t want your kids to be alarmed. While you don’t want to unnecessarily scare your children or give them nightmares, it’s important to be honest about the dangers that water can represent. Aim to be truthful, while tailoring the conversation to be age-appropriate.
One idea is to speak with them using facts, rather than sharing emotionally-charged stories that might affect them in a negative way. Convey the dangers of drowning and near drowning, along with the most common places it happens (residential swimming pools and open water sites). Let them know how quickly it can happen, and that even if they’re a strong swimmer, they could still slip near a pool, bump their head and be in danger, which is why they must always have an adult present.
Share Your Family’s Rules
There are some common water safety rules that everyone should follow, and it’s important for each family to discuss these as well as any additional rules you’ve established. For example, only swimming when an adult is present is a rule everyone should follow. But if you have a pool in your backyard (even a fenced one), you might also have a household rule that the kids can’t play in the backyard without an adult present. Keep your rules short and memorable so kids can retain and recall them, and to talk about them before a trip to the pool or any body of water. For instance, if your child is preparing to attend a friend’s birthday party at a water park, remind them of your water safety rules and also let them know about safety tips specific to a water park that they should know. Kids can get caught up in the fun and forget safety guidelines, so make sure you talk about them often, so they become second-nature.
Get Started in Swim Class
As a parent, it’s imperative to remember that there’s no substitute for active adult supervision of your kids around water, even when it comes to the bath or anywhere with as little as an inch of water. But an important line of defense for your children is having the ability to swim on their own. If your kids are not already enrolled in swim class, there’s no better time than the present to get them started. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children age four and older can learn to swim. Children ages one to four might be able to learn depending on their physical and emotional development. Several organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs and municipal and neighborhood pools provide low-cost and even free swimming lessons.
It’s never fun to talk about scary things, like drowning, with your children, but it’s crucial that they understand the risks that come with being around water. Sharing the potential dangers, reinforcing your family’s water safety rules and expectations and getting them in swim class is the best way to keep them safe.
We can end drowning! Take our Water Safety Challenge to measure your family’s water safety competence and help us provide water safety outreach to schools and community groups to keep kids safe.