Safe swimming is a topic that is brought up in the media and in homes with monotonous regularity every summer. Inevitably there is an incident or an accident that sparks the interest of the news reporters and suddenly there is a flurry of activity on the television. Often this is followed by a push to make sure that you’re supervising your children appropriately when there is a body of water nearby. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough as part of responsible parenting. But there are lots of other ways that you can also prepare your children for a safe summer of swimming wherever they might be.
There is often a fear developed early on in children of the ‘deep end’ of the swimming pool. While it’s important for kids to be safe – if you’re talking about a young child – and thinking in terms of water being over their heads, chances are that the shallow end will be just as dangerous. When kids aren’t able to get themselves to the edge of the pool, it won’t matter if the pool is too deep by five metres or five inches. By setting children up to be afraid of one end of the pool it can not only hamper later efforts in swimming lessons. It can also mean that by default, they believe that the other end is safe.
As part of teaching children to swim, it is very important for everyone– not just children – to be aware of the environment they’re swimming in. Knowing where it’s safe to dive in and when they have to just ease into that water is as important as being able to stay afloat. If you’re going to a new swimming pool, make it your priority to check the depth of a pool before letting children dive in or diving in yourself.
What about swimming at the beach? Do you know how to read the beach? This is something you should learn how to do no matter how old you are. There are lots of programs designed just for children to learn how to recognise where it’s safe to swim in the ocean. This includes know how the currents work, how to recognise sandbars and rips, and how to negotiate waves, both looked for and unexpected. If you’re unsure about what you’re looking at, make sure you check with a lifeguard. They have all had experience and training on how to read what’s happening in and under the water.
Keeping cool in pond, lagoon or natural pool can also pose a number of very avoidable hazards. Submerged branches, shifting sand or rocks on the bottom of the pool and murky waters to name just a few. Even if you have had a swim in the same spot every day for the past year, it’s very important to check what’s under the water before you dive in. Even a shallow dive can be dangerous if you hit a rock or a tree branch.
When swimming in natural bodies of water, depth and visibility can be deceptive. It may look as though you can put your hand in the water and touch the bottom when a pool is six metres deep. Sometimes, particularly when the water isn’t clear or there is some weed coverage, it can seem as through you will never reach the bottom, but in reality, you could stride right through without getting your bathers wet. It’s best to make a physical check before diving or letting anyone who you are supervising dive in.
Some of our most adventurous, fun and exciting holidays and events happen around and in the water. Take the time to ensure that you understand your environment, and take the time to teach your children, and the children around you, how to safely read their aquatic environment. It will not only help your children (and you) FEEL safer when you enter the water, it will help you BE safe.
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