One of the most important things you can do to keep your child safe is to watch them whenever they are in or near water. Most young children who drown have been out of sight of a parent or caregiver for less than 5 minutes. A young child can lose consciousness in 20 seconds and can drown in 2 minutes. If your child is in or near the water – bathtubs, pools, kiddie pool, stream, storm drain – you must be aware of the potential danger.
The problem? Someone tell me that I’m not the only mom who has lost sight of their child for 2 minutes, much less 20 seconds! In fact, a friend recounts a story of when she almost drowned when she was 3 or 4 and only 3 feet away from her mom. Her mom was sitting in the pool, diligently watching her 4 kids play, supervising closely. Her daughter was just next to her, in her blind-side space, and slipped off the step. She vividly remembers looking up through the water at her mom. She didn’t panic, she didn’t thrash, she just stayed under-water watching her mom carefully watching everyone. Her dad happened to come home, saw his daughter under the water and pulled her out – no harm done. And this is a close-knit, loving and concerned family that grew up in and around water, produced lifeguards and really ‘got’ the water.
Kids drown every day. Kids who are loved, supervised, and well-cared for drown every day. Yes, we must all watch our kids whenever they are near water, but those little rascals do not stay where you put them. Those days ended the first time your baby rolled over on their own steam. Short of harnessing ourselves permanently to our children, how do we protect them?
Teach them water safety from the time they are infants the same way you teach them to cross the street safely. Consistently, repetitively and age-appropriately. Start talking to them from the time they are a tiny baby. When you are holding them in the bath talk about how you would never leave them alone in the bath for even a few seconds, you are always there protecting them, that they always need a grown-up near when they go in the water. As they become toddlers talk to them, ‘always have a grownup near when you are in the pool’. As I remind my kids, ‘if you can’t see me, I can’t see you’. And sorry, but those lazy summer days at the pool? You can’t relax and think the lifeguard is in charge, watch your kids the whole time, or trade-off the job with another parent. Kids learn by watching their parent as well as by listening. Make sure you are showing them how to be safe as well as teaching them.
If you’d like some positive reinforcement for your toddler, check out Jabari on our web-site, www.jabariofthewater.com. As any parent can tell you, having back-up to what you are saying is always a help in the long-haul of raising kids, just as you say ‘Thomas/Princess Aurora loves eating carrots!’, having kids say ‘Jabari says I have to have a grown-up with me’ can make your life easier – and your child’s life safer.