A few years ago, I was teaching a beginner adult swimming class. There was a young woman named Heather enrolled in the class. She experienced a near-drowning incident as a teen and was finally feeling confident enough to get back in the water and learn how to swim. As a child, Heather had never been enrolled in swim lessons or spent much time around pools or lakes. Like most kids and teens, she felt invincible and didn’t doubt her lack of skills when she dove into that lake as a 15 year old. She realized too late that she was too deep and unable to keep herself above water. Luckily, lifeguards on duty and her family members were able to rescue her.
There are many lessons we can take away from this, but one of the most obvious is the importance of enrolling your child in swim lessons at a young age. If Heather’s parents had put her in swim lessons as a child, this may have saved her the trauma of experiencing a near-drowning. Heather and I had many issues to work through while she was in my class. It took several long and grueling months before Heather even felt comfortable floating without support and submerging her face. There were many tears and frustrations, that as an instructor, I felt could have been spared if she had been exposed to swim lessons as a child.
Unfortunately, many parents (who love and only want what is best for their children) fail to enroll their children in swim lessons. Why is this? For many years agencies like the American Academy of Pediatrics discouraged swim lessons for younger children. However, they have recently withdrawn that position and new research shows the invaluable importance of swim lessons for children. Research from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) proves swim lessons can have a protective effect against drowning.
Of course, swim lessons alone do not prevent drowning. The National Drowning Prevention Alliance cites many “layers of protection” that parents can utilize to protect their child from drowning:
- Adult supervision during any/all activities in or around bodies of water
- Use “touch supervision” – An adult should always be within arm’s length
- Do not use floatation devices as a substitution for supervision
- For home pools and spas, make sure there are barriers (like fences, pool covers, gates, etc.) that limit access to the water
- Learn CPR and take a Water Rescue Course
There are plenty of other measures a parent can take, but swim lessons is one of the easiest and first steps a parent can take to help make their child is safer in and around water.
~ By Kelsey Olson