Swimming Your Kids’ Way to Safety This Summer
By Ashley Sigrest
Hip hip hooray, summer is on its way! With the summer heat comes the opportunity to cool off in the water. It’s officially the season to start swimming lessons. Even if your children had lessons in the past and were great swimmers last year, it’s still important to go over water safety with them before you let them loose this summer.
The Dangers of Water
According to the Center for Disease Control, 10 people in the United States die from unintentional drowning every day and it is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1-14 years old. No matter how well you think your children can swim, take the time to go over some guidelines, whether you’re at the pool or on the beach. Just like you would remind your kids to look both ways before crossing the street, it’s essential to reiterate the safety rules of where you might be swimming.
Are Swimming Lessons Necessary?
The risk of a child drowning drops by 88% for children between the ages of 1 and 4 who have had swimming lessons, as reported by the CDC. For babies or toddlers to learn survival techniques like rolling onto their backs in the water, it typically takes many lessons and the learning process can last for months. It takes consistency to master these survival skills and can bring about a lot of tears. If you have a pool at home, these lessons are beneficial, but if not, it’s fine to wait until your child is older. Just be sure you keep your little one in a floating device, such as a puddle jumper or a life vest of the appropriate size.
One Moment that Changed Everything
While spending time with family and watching all the kids swim in the backyard pool, Jamie Gross remembers thinking how good the older boys had become at holding their breath. She then quickly realized it was her 2-year-old son on the bottom of the pool. “I don’t know when he took off his arm floaties or how long he had been under the water. I only know that when I got to him, he wasn’t breathing.”
Thankfully her son survived and this event is what lead Gross to the Olive Branch YMCA to not only teach swimming lessons, but to help train swimming instructors and life guards. The Olive Branch YMCA is currently training swim instructors and offers swim lessons for people of all ages and skill levels.
Sometimes swim lessons can give a false sense of security to children and parents. The notion that because a child had lessons he won’t need as much supervision as before is a lie. Children will always need to be watched in the water as there are always unpredictable situations that can arise. Drowning can happen in mere seconds even when you think you are watching your children. Parents can easily get distracted. A small window of time is all it takes for a child to drown. If you have to step away for any reason, make sure you get your children out of the water first. Never assume they’ll be safe for even just a minute. Parents should always be within an arms distance to be able to quickly rescue their child if needed. Small backyard pools that only have a few inches of water in them can still be a drowning risk for toddlers and preschoolers.
Often a child’s fear of the water is an extension of the parent’s own fear. If the parent is over-cautious it can cause the child to be afraid. While parents should be alerted to the dangers, there are no benefits in overwhelming the child. Many kids cry during swimming lessons, but with time learn to love and enjoy the water, as they should.
Now is the perfect time to schedule your child’s swimming lessons or a refresher course. It’s typical for kids to need more than one set of lessons. Every child’s capability and readiness is different and sometimes the necessary skills get forgotten after long periods of time away from the water. While the cost seems expensive, the value of a child’s life is priceless.
Ashley Sigrest is a mother of four and since she can’t be a mermaid, she became a swim instructor in Brandon, MS. Her hope is that all people of all ages learn to swim and acquire the important safety skills so they can embrace the joy of the water!
Olive Branch YMCA is in NEED of swim instructors and lifeguards! Jamie Gross is accepting applications now as they are beginning all of their trainings.
What Drowning Looks Like
When a child is drowning he doesn’t usually yell and splash like you see on TV. Oftentimes a drowning child will appear to be swimming, but not making any headway. His mouth will usually be near the surface of the water with his arms out to the front or side and both legs down. Drowning children can appear to be calm even though they’re panicking. This is why it’s important for parents to keep a close watch on their children even when lifeguards are present.