If you're a parent gearing up for summer, you're probably prepared
to ensure your children have a safe time swimming--you know to keep an
eye on the kids, where to find safe swimming spots, the basic steps to take to
prevent drowning and other
safety precautions. But are your kids prepared?
"There are certain skills kids should know if they want to be strong,
confident swimmers, and having those skills can help reduce the risk of
drowning," says Karli Tedeschi, CPSTI, injury prevention coordinator
and Safe Kids Sonoma County coordinator at
Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. "However, according to data from the American Red Cross, the majority
of teens and kids aren't fully equipped with this basic safety knowledge."
Of the parents surveyed by the American Red Cross, 61 percent said their
children did not know the five safety skills that make up "water
competency." That makes swimming a risky proposition, especially
when you consider that an average of 10 people die from drowning every
day in the United States, and two of those 10 are children, according
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Because summer is right around the corner--Tedeschi advises that you make
sure your children have these five water competency skills and can perform
them in the following order:
- Jump into or step into water that is higher than head level.
- Be able to resurface above the water and float or tread water for one minute.
- Make a full circle in the water to find an exit.
- Be able to swim up to 25 yards, if necessary, to reach the exit. (That's
the standard length of a lap pool such as those found at gyms.)
- Safely get out of the water; in a pool, the swimmer should be able to exit
without using a ladder.
"If children can't perform these skills, they should be enrolled
in a swimming class, ideally before summer kicks off and you start taking
trips to the pool or beach," Tedeschi says. "And if you will
be the one responsible for your child's safety in the water--say,
there's no lifeguard present or you are the adult in charge--you should
know how to perform these skills as well, in case your child needs to
In addition to her work at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Karli Tedeschi
sits on the County of Sonoma Water Safety Committee. Its signature program,
started by the Red Cross over a decade ago, is
Vamos a Nadar...Let’s Go Swimming, a bilingual swimming program for young children and their parents .
Learn more about the program.