Drowning ranks behind only motor-vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death among youngsters in middle childhood. Most often, these tragedies occur when children swim without adequate adult supervision. In most cases, these children (and their parents) have overestimated their swimming ability and their knowledge of water-survival skills.
Here are some guidelines to keep your middle-years child safe in and near the water:
- Make sure your youngster learns how to swim from an experienced and qualified instructor. Check for available lessons at local recreation centers, YMCAs, and summer camps.
- Never allow your child to swim alone or play by or in water away from the watchful eye of an adult. Ideally, this adult should be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Also, teach your child to use the buddy system even when swimming with large groups of friends.
- Do not allow your child to engage in horseplay that might result in injury.
- Prohibit your child from diving unless someone has already determined the depth of the water and checked for underwater hazards.
- Do not allow your child to swim in areas where there are boats or fishermen. Nor should she swim at beaches where there are large waves, a powerful undertow, or no lifeguards. Make sure she understands that swimming in one body of water (e.g., a backyard pool) may be different from swimming in another (a river or ocean).
- While riding in a boat, you and your child should always wear a personal flotation device.
- Do not permit your child to rely on an air mattress, inner tube, or inflatable toy as a life preserver. If these devices deflate, or your child slips off them, she could be in serious trouble.
- Your child should never be permitted to swim during a lightning storm.
- If you have a backyard swimming pool, it should be enclosed with high and locked fences on all four sides, especially the side that separates the house from the pool.
- When your youngster is old enough—usually by her high school years—she should learn life-saving skills such as CPR, taught in most cities through community agencies or the American Red Cross.