This month’s Parents magazine features a story on water safety that will shoot fear into mothers of young kids. Most moms I know already harbor extreme fright about water dangers. So it’s helpful to stay on top of everything we can do to protect our little ones around water.
This weekend we went to our second pool party with young kids in tow. It was a huge July 4th bash with many families and children in the four to ten age range. Most of the children knew how to swim. Mine do not.
The party took place on an enormous patio with a pool in one corner, a band, outdoor fire pit, lounge area, then backyard with play area and bouncy house. It was a blast! But, I’ve learned the hard way that a party for adults and kids with a pool involved requires a firm strategy up front and strict attention to keep your kids safe. In other words, this wasn’t a kids-only party where all the adults are focused on watching the kids in the pool (which still requires strict attention). It was a mixed party with a full bar and lots going on – while children swam in the pool.
Last year, we attended a similar type party though on a much smaller scale. We had a big scare when Daughter flipped over in her swim ring. Fortunately, Husband and I were close by and able to get to her quickly to help. She was startled, somewhat scared, physically fine, and recovered emotionally rather quickly. Husband and did not.
I still have nightmares about this terrifying episode. And what disturbs me is that none of the other older kids swimming in the pool or the adults, lounging and drinking around it, noticed. No one else was paying attention to the children in the pool. Afterwards, I decided we probably wouldn’t attend another pool party unless our children could swim.
When we were invited to the party for the 4th, I developed the following strategy so that my children could attend and swim:
- Bring life jackets or floaties that the children must wear while in the pool and near it. There were a lot of older children jumping into the pool, splashing around and bumping into one another. It only takes a second for your child to be bumped under water and if you are watching the other child, you can miss that second and it can be dangerous.
I bought Power Swimr flotation swim aids at Target, which my children enjoyed and truly helped them stay afloat and tread water. We are using these as they learn to swim. They won’t keep children afloat like a life jacket so should only be used with a hands on parent in the water. The hostess also gave us life jackets when we arrived which was smart and very helpful.
- Always stand in the water with your child. Follow them if they paddle from one end to the other. I found it very challenging to keep my eyes on both children. I kept my hand on Daughter, or stayed close by her side, and set firm rules for how far away from me my Son could paddle.
- Don’t chitchat when your kids are swimming. Period. It kind of defeats the purpose of an adult party but I’ve realized I need to keep both my eyes and attention on my children.
- Do not drink alcohol. This is important and parents can decide which spouse will stay focused on the children and which will socialize more. It’s simply too hard to keep your wits about you and attention on where the children are if you’ve had even one drink.
- If your children are under three, don’t take them. Leave a toddler who doesn’t know how to stay away from the pool at home with a sitter. The alternative is to put a lifejacket on them and bring a sitter to watch them. You must trust that the sitter will pay close attention. Otherwise, there’s not much point in your going to the party if you are following a toddler around and screaming anxiously every time he goes near the pool (we’ve all heard or been that Mom).
A friend of mine with a summer house right next to a lake, insists that her boys and visiting friends wear life jackets whenever they are outside. She makes no exceptions and the children have gotten used to wearing them while playing. As the Parents magazine article points out, even children who know how to swim can be at risk when they are around water.
I’m still developing my safety strategy but I feel more alert and aware of how we should approach occasions around water. It’s not as much fun to give up mom conversations when we’re at the town pond. Unless of course, you want to wade with Daughter and me and don’t mind if I completely ignore you while she splashes with glee.