Keep kids safe in the water with these tips

Summer in Texas means many kids spend a lot of time in the pool. The swim experts at the YMCA suggest several layers of protection to keep your family safe.

“We’re all about educating parents about drowning prevention,” said Jennifer Pewitt, the YMCA’s vice president of aquatics. “Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under 4 and the second leading cause of death for children under 14.”

Instead of teaching your children how to swim, she said the focus first should be on teaching them how not to drown.

“Step one is learning how to hold your breath. We teach them how to comfortably go under water,” Pewitt said.

If a child can’t quite swim yet, she said they should be wearing a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

“We don’t want you to put your kid in anything that blows up. The safest thing to do is put them in something Coast Guard approved. You know it’s Coast Guard approved because it has a stamp on the inside,” she said.

She also suggests layers of protection around the pool such as pool fence with a self-closing, self-latching and non-scalable gate. Another recommendation any time children are in the water is an assigned adult who never takes their eyes off the pool.

“When they’re swimming in the pool you need to designate a water watcher where that’s their whole job. They’re only there to watch the water,” she said.

At a recent pool party, Pewitt had the job and saw her daughter’s classmate go under.

“As the little boy got in the pool the water was over his head and he could not swim. So I got in with all my clothes on and fished him out and I had him out of the pool,” she said.

The boy survived thanks to her close eye and quick reaction. Still, the incident serves as a reminder of how dangerous a backyard pool can be.

“It only takes a second and drowning is completely silent. The kid never splashed. You never heard a sound,” Pewitt said.

The YMCA does have scholarships available for aquatic lessons. For more information, visit www.ymcadallas.org/financial_assistance.

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