There is a list of basic life skills all parents instinctively know they must teach their children to keep them safe and healthy. It includes habits such as looking both ways before crossing the street, washing your hands with soap and water and eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables every day.
For too many parents, however, safety in and around water is not on the list, and that’s something we need to change. Florida leads the country in drowning deaths of children ages 1-4, according to the Florida Department of Health. Annually in our state, enough children to fill three to four preschool classrooms drown before their fifth birthday.
During National Water Safety Month this May, the Y offers Safety Around Water, a program to engage parents about the importance of water safety skills and provide more children access to water safety lessons. As part of the program, the Ponte Vedra YMCA will provide scholarships to children from low-income and underserved communities to participate in free water safety lessons. The lessons teach young people valuable skills like what to do if they find themselves in the water unexpectedly, a situation every child should be equipped to handle.
To find out how to enroll your child in the Y’s Safety Around Water program or swim lessons, visit FirstCoastYMCA.org/youth-swim.
Water Safety Tips
Before letting your children hit the water this summer, remember these tips to ensure it’s an enjoyable and safe experience.
1. Never swim alone. Teach your children that they should only swim in locations where a lifeguard is on duty.
2. Supervise your children whenever they’re in water. Whether it’s bath time or taking a dip in a pool or lake, make sure your children are within arm’s reach at all times.
3. Don’t engage in breath holding activities. Children shouldn’t hold their breath for a prolonged amount of time while swimming, as this can cause drowning and has several other severe physical side-effects.
4. Wear a life jacket: Inexperienced or non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
5. Don’t jump in the water to save a friend who is struggling in deep water. If a child finds their friend in deep water unexpectedly, their natural reaction may be to jump in the water to try to save them. Even if a child is a great swimmer, a panicked person will overpower them, pulling them underwater with them. The Y’s Safety Around Water program teaches the “reach, throw, don’t go” concept of using a long object to reach for them and pull them to safety. By using this technique, children can help their friend without compromising their own safety.
6. Enroll your children in water safety or swim lessons. Just like teaching your children to look both ways before they cross the street, participating in formal water safety lessons teaches them an important life skill.
Join our cause by supporting the Ponte Vedra YMCA SandCastle Showdown May 19 at Mickler’s Landing or by becoming a donor. $60 is all it takes to help one child learn how to be safe around water. For more information, visit FCYMCA.org or call (904) 543-9622.