Swimming lessons are important for every child, regardless of whether you have a pool or live near a body of water. You never know when the knowledge can save a life. Now that I have become more vocal about the dangers of drowning, I am hearing more stories about water hazards.
You don’t think that a bathtub with a few inches of water could be fatal, but you’d be wrong. If it is deep enough to cover your mouth and nose, you can drown. Children in a pool surrounded by adults have quietly slipped under the water unnoticed and died, without alerting anyone. It’s scary. Some children, like my Ian, swallow water and can drown later—even overnight after you’ve tucked them into bed. The danger can be even more serious if you have a child with eloping tendencies. You don’t even know they are near the water until it is too late. Even if you are in the water under the watchful eye of a diligent lifeguard, things can—and do—go wrong.
I am sure that this all sounds very scary, and it is. And you should be scared. But know that things are not completely out of your control. If you feel yourself starting to panic reading this post, remind yourself that drowning is preventable. The most important things you can do is get your child swimming lessons.
If you aren’t sure what to look for, start at the American Red Cross site. This is the organization that often certifies lifeguards, so they know their stuff and have certain standards. Find a class that progresses based on skill and not age—you want to be sure your child (or you) have mastered the skills taught at one level before moving on to the next. At the beginning, expect the class to mostly focus on getting comfortable in and around the water. It may seem like a waste of time, but it will help children relax and feel more confident. Basic things everyone should learn: how to float on their front and back, breath control, and arm and leg movements. As their confidence and experience grows, they can learn to tread water and various types of swimming strokes.
While it is easier to learn how to swim in a pool, if there is a body of water near you that you plan on utilizing, it is beneficial to take classes there as well if they are offered. Waves, undertows, riptides, and currents can be overpowering and the more you are taught about how to swim in those types of environments, the better off you will be.
Several important guidelines: never leave your child alone in the water. Even a good swimmer can drown, especially in a large body of water. Either you or an instructor need to be present at all times. Remain alert and pay attention! Teach them not to go in the water without someone watching. Also, if they are wearing a floatation device, it must be a life jacket certified by the US Coast Guard, fitted properly, and checked before and after use for fading, tears, and wear. Do not rely on inflatables, water wings, or even those inflatable swim suits. Even the tiniest leak can cause your child to sink.
It may seem excessive or hypervigilance, but children can drown in such small amounts of water as an inch in 30 seconds or less. In the amount of time it takes you to post that picture online, your child could drown. Please pay attention. Their life could depend on it.