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Swimming and Water Safety

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This post was originally published as the introduction to an issue of TheHomeSchoolMom newsletter. Sign up here and get access to subscriber exclusive printables.

What’s a skill your kids could learn now that might save their lives when they are 18, 24, or even 50?

Swimming and water safety.

It’s hard to imagine, but someday your youngster may be a teen or young adult navigating pool parties, afternoons at the lake or river, and even boat rides with people you don’t know—and you won’t be there.

Helping kids learn how to swim and some basic water safety rules when they are younger may make them safer for their future water activities, even when you’re not around.

Swimming and Water Safety

Look for swimming lessons through:

  • The YMCA
  • Your local recreation department or public swimming pool
  • Private membership pools (some allow non-members just for lessons)
  • State parks in some states
  • Day camps and sleep away camps
  • Neighborhood pools (again, some allow non-members for lessons and swim team)
  • Red Cross

If cost is an issue, pick a year to prioritize learning to swim for each child and budget for that in place of other activities, or ask for discounted prices based on need. Some organizations do have funds to help families who are challenged by the cost. Consider asking grandparents who “want to help” to fund this important part of their grandchildren’s education.

Are formal swimming lessons the only way to get started? Not necessarily.

Your child may be able to learn the basics of swimming with your direct supervision and exposure to the water in a residential pool at a friend’s house. That said, swim strokes, safety rules, and survival techniques can only be learned from someone who is knowledgeable enough to pass them on.

If that’s not you, consider making it a priority for your child to have instruction and time to experience becoming a stronger swimmer.

In addition to the “usual” topics an instructor will introduce, here are a few things to discuss with your kids about water safety as they are growing up:

  • Don’t dive off docks or boats that are new to you without checking the water depth (teens are especially prone to this).
  • Alcohol and drugs don’t mix safely with boating and swimming.
  • How and when to use life jackets or “PFDs” (personal floatation devices)
  • Close gates and doors until they latch whenever you are at a residential or institutional pool. Younger children should not be able to push them open just by leaning into them.
  • Don’t walk on icy ponds and lakes without knowing when or if local people do this safely.
  • Swim with a buddy. This goes for adults, too.

Where I live in Virginia, our ponds only ice over every three or four years, and the ice doesn’t get thick enough to be safe. I have stopped a handful of times to call neighborhood tweens off thin ice. Yes, I’m that kind of neighbor.

Eleven year olds don’t have experience with freezing ponds, and they don’t remember instruction from a few winters ago about the possibility of falling through, or at that point, they might have only been out and about with an adult. Walking out on a barely frozen pond is so tempting! Sometimes the water is so much deeper under the ice than they realize, and they are wearing heavy winter clothing that would bog them down in water.

We also have powerful riptides in some of the waters off the East Coast. Our family members (all adults now!) still review what to do if we are swimming at an ocean beach and get carried out by a rip. Learning to identify the signs of a rip current (and always obeying red flags on the beach) and what to do if caught in one can save lives.

How to identify a rip current

We’ve lived in areas where flash flooding occurs. Waters that can be fun to play in at first quickly become dangerous. Young people should know “turn around, don’t drown” instead of crossing into high waters covering a roadway.

What are the water dangers in your area? What might they be by the time your child becomes a teen or young adult?

We spend a lot of time teaching our kids history, science, math, reading and writing, and we spend a lot of time at their soccer, baseball, dance, and scouts activities. Let’s do our best to help our kids be safer in and around the water.

Make this the summer you get into the swim of things!

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