Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
By Jo Anne Embleton
It's where our minds naturally turn when warm weather approaches, but water safety should be there first and foremost.
Especially with parents, who they understand that they won't always be on hand to keep an eye on their children.
“Children are, by their very nature, curious,” said Cherokee County Public Health Executive Director Chris Taylor. “That doesn't make them a bad kid (for wanting to) try things to know what the end results are.”
The best rule of thumb when it comes to safety – especially water safety – is to ensure education is ongoing, because at some point, a child may receive information from another adult in charge that conflicts what Mom and Dad have told him, Taylor said.
“The reason why it's so important to (educate) at home is so that when they hear from others that it's okay to do something, they know they need to go with Mom and Dad's advice,” he said. “And you can't stop that education because you think your child is never going to do something – it's an ongoing effort to remind them of their safety, because if they see that it's not important to Mom and Dad, in their minds they don't see it as a big issue.”
Taylor said that parents also need to remember that while they necessarily might not like being in the water or don't like to swim, it doesn't mean their child feels the same way.
“We educate so that we can prevent the unexpected,” he said.
As the American Red Cross website points out, “drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages one to 14 years … usually (happening) quickly and silently. … No one is 'drownproof,' despite what some might claim.”
The American Red Cross, which endorses water safety and swimming lessons, has a checklist of things to help families safely enjoyment their time in the water.
First and foremost is to keep children under active supervision when they are in and around water, and to have swimmers who are still developing their skill to wear a government-approved life jacket.
Homeowners with pools are advised to have gated access to the water so that children cannot easily enter them or try to enter without adult supervision. “Children were often out of sight less than five minutes and under the care of one or both parents at the time of many home pool drownings,” ARC reported.
Other suggestions are to know the water hazards in your area and make sure children stay away from them and to avoid distractions when supervising children around water, according to the Red Cross website.
The site WatchKids-AroundWater.org also recommends not leaving small children alone around water, whether it's a pool, a lake, a bathtub or toilet, and to store toys and other attractive items away from water, where a small child might go after them.
Prepare for emergencies by learning CPR and having emergency phone numbers readily available, and ensure that friends and neighbors with pools adopt safety tips to ensure a safe environment, the site additionally states.
One of the best ways a parent can help create a sense of awareness in their children is to share their own experiences, Taylor said.
“I know with my own kids that sometimes they'll remember little pieces of information from different stories and experiences my wife and I have shared with them,” he said. “Storytelling is a great way of showing why these things are important to Mom and Dad, and the kids have a context of what they're talking about.”