My kids and most of their friends are great swimmers. Our neighbors have a pool and my kids basically grew up in it. They’re confident in the water, and I’m confident in their abilities. But I still worry. They’re nearing that age where they won’t need parental supervision anymore, and I want to be sure they understand that the water is still dangerous even if they’re strong swimmers.
I recently found this great piece on pool safety—The Ultimate Guide to Recreational Swimming Safety. It features attention-grabbing information about the prevalence of drowning in kids up to 14 years of age. But more than anything it’s an essential reminder that even older kids need rules and structure at the pool.
Here are some tips to keep the big kids in your life safe when swimming:
Supervision is a must. I was curious so I looked online to see what other parents were recommending as a safe age to swim unsupervised. I was surprised to see that parents were suggesting anywhere from 10 – 14. Maybe my husband and I are being overly cautious, but we’ve decided not to allow our kids to swim without parental supervision until they’re at least 16. Often kids think they’re invincible and if they’re strong swimmers even more so. But you never know what can happen. We’re erring on the side of caution.
No pushing. As kids get older, it seems they think many of the pool safety rules don’t apply to them. One that I am vigilant about is no pushing. Explain to your kids and their friends that they never know how strong a swimmer someone is, and even if a child is a good swimmer, it’s easy to catch them off guard with a push. If they’re disoriented when they hit the water, it might make it difficult for their swim skills to kick in. And as SymptomFind.com notes, it’s also never okay to push someone under the water.
Make learning CPR mandatory. When they’re old enough, sign them up for a CPR class. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ HealthyChildren.org suggests that kids in their high school years are ready. Like swimming, knowing CPR is a life-saving and essential skill.
No diving in shallow areas. In its piece on water safety for teens, the University of Rochester Medical Center, lists areas that can be tempting places for adolescents and teens to dive—they include above-ground pools, the shallow end of in-ground pools, and unmarked shallow water. Constantly reiterate to older kids that they should never dive in these areas. Make them aware of the dangers, which as URMC notes, include spinal cord injury, brain damage, and death.
Of course, these are great rules for kids (and adults!) to follow at any age. I try never to miss an opportunity to remind my kids how critical it is that they heed all rules when at the pool.
Patricia Sarmiento is a health and fitness blogger. She writes frequently about how to live a happy, healthy lifestyle and other health-related topics. She is a former high school and college athlete and continues to make fitness a focus in her everyday life. She lives with her family in Maryland.