Posted by Claudia Grazioso on August 3, 2011
We passed a small milestone in our family recently: As of this summer, all of the kids can swim the length of a pool alone, get their head up to breathe and climb out on the side. The old hand-hand-elbow-elbow-tummy-knee-knee drill has finally fully clicked in. You would think I could breathe a sigh of relief. Now pools aren’t something I need to worry about as much, right? Wrong. Even children who know how to swim can forget what to do when they start to panic. Adult supervision remains absolutely essential.
If there is one thing that stops a parent’s heart, it’s when they hear about an accidental drowning in a backyard pool. Maybe it’s because we’re there all the time — a place to cool off is a summertime necessity, and since they are so bright and fun, you could let your guard down a little. And that, as they say, is all it takes. Anyone with kids knows that accidents happen fast. So what are some things you can do to keep your child safe?
If you have a pool in your yard, be sure that there is a fence around it. A tall one, with a self-latching mechanism that is out of the child’s reach. Anyone who has ever attempted to safety-proof their house knows that there are very few latches a persistent toddler can’t eventually get through. Keeping it out of their reach is key. If there are older children around, do not trust them to always latch the safety lock. Even though you may have carefully communicated the rule that they must lock the fence, and even though they may know how to do it, kids forget. Especially kids who are excited about swimming and playing. Always check it and latch it yourself.
Also, do not assume that a safety cover on the pool will save kids or substitute for a fence. We were at a birthday party once and our two-year-old daughter ran into the backyard and saw a bright yellow ducky toy in the center of the pool cover. She waded onto it and promptly started to sink. Because my husband assumed that she was safe on the cover, it took him a moment to realize that the reason she was screaming bloody murder was because she was up to her waist in water. We got her out, still clutching the ducky, but learned never to just trust a pool cover.
And what about the yellow ducky that had tempted her? The other day at swim lessons, I was watching a baby toddle around the pool while his sibling had her lesson. He spied a toy floating near the edge and was just reaching over for it when his mom grabbed him. Kids love toys. And young kids are going to reach for them whether they are floating in a pool or surrounded by a ring of fire. Take all toys — and all temptation — out of the pool when you are done swimming.
These are just tips. None of them takes the place of constant — and vigilant — supervision. Do not leave children by the pool. Do not believe that they will stay out of the water while you run inside to answer the phone or assemble snacks. Keep a phone by the pool, bring the snack tray out and take the kids with you if you have to leave, even for a second. Drowning is a preventable tragedy. Be there to prevent it.