Strong swimmers are just safer.
Even as an excellent competitive swimmer, I got into trouble in the ocean when I was 9. We were riding the waves after a big storm, and I was caught in the undertow. I was dragged along on the bottom and tumbled about. I started to panic at first as I couldn’t see and didn’t know which way was up. Then I remembered that I was supposed to relax, and I could still hold my breath for a while. I curled up in a ball and protected my head and rolled with it for a bit. Once the water was little calmer, I turned sideways to the direction I was being pulled in and swam out of it.
Here are my tips for keeping you and your loved ones safest whilst in or around the water:
Beach and Open Water
- Flags: Look at what color flag is up and ask lifeguard about conditions.
- Lifeguard: Follow lifeguard instructions and rules on beach.
- Current and Tide Safety: Learn about how to identify Rip Currents and Undertows. Swim parallel to the beach to out of them. Long shore currents and parallel currents drag people down the beach. Swim into shore to get out of these. Also, make identification markers on the beach (like a specific building or umbrella) to help the family to find their locations while in the water, and WATCH for markers while swimming.
- Relax! Don’t Panic! You use less oxygen. Roll over and float if you can.
- Buddy System: Always swim with a buddy in a supervised area.
- Diving: Never dive into murky water that you don’t know the depth of and/or can’t see the bottom. Look before you leap, so you don’t jump on someone!!
- Learning to swim can create a RISKIER situation in the journey to becoming a “safe-r” swimmer. Typically, children gain their confidence and joy in the water before they master the skills of rolling over to float. Extra caution needs to be taken during the process of learning to swim.
- Learn CPR for infant, child, and adult!!!! A must – it saves lives! Ask about signs for dry drowning while in the class.
- “Throw, Don’t Go” – Never rescue a swimmer in danger by going in the water. Instead throw or extend something that floats.
- Assign an adult to be a lifeguard *even if no one is intended to swim. (also see Habits section below for more info)
- NO FLOTATION devices at all. Most flotation devices are actually a safety risk and hinder learning to swim. They put the child in a slightly vertical position, whereas easy swimming happens in a fully balanced horizontal position. It is hard to unlearn the habit of a wrong position and it is very tiring to swim in that vertical position. Plus many of them fall off or just plain are a safety hazard in their design. We suggest that you do not use life jackets for swimming but only for safety reasons. Then, learn to swim as soon as possible instead of using flotation devices.
*If this solution is not safe enough because of large numbers of non-swimming kids or another reason, feel free to call Body-Mind Aquatics and we will give you a safety consult for free to problem solve the situation with the best and safest outcomes and best devices to help.
- LIFE JACKETS!!! Put them on the kids, especially if you (the adult) are not going to swim. Proper infant and child life jackets need to have a head rest and floats in front. Use a USCG certified life jacket, not a floatation device.
- Pool Safety Devices: Pool fences, locks and pool alarms or door alarms are a must! There is also a wrist band alarm that goes off like a baby monitor when it gets wet.
Good Habits to Form (Adults & Kids)
- Behavioral TRAINING: Teach children to ASK AND LISTEN FOR AN ANSWER BEFORE THEY GO into or even touch water. As infants you simply go through the conversational process for them so they can start early that they can’t swim until they hear an answer with their name in it. “Honey, you need to ask mommy and daddy to get in the water and pool? Would you like to get in now? Yes. Thank you for asking! (NAME), YOU MAY GET IN NOW!” If you catch them not doing this, have them sit out, and repeat the rule. Keep at it with consistency! Be relentless! Hopefully, they will pause to ask before they go to reach for a toy or explore near water.
- Bathtub time: Never leave kids alone in bathtub. It is easy to leave, but don’t, especially with 2 or more kids in the bath as accidents can easily happen. Make sure you have what you need before kids enter any water zone (phone, snacks, water, etc), or kids need to come out of water.
- Designate rotating lifeguards help at parties. Have someone (nanny or adult guest) be with the kids and switch periodically. That person can even wear a pin or hat or something to designate their role as the fun-making “lifeguard.”
Hopefully with the implementation of these safety tips and safety training, we can keep more people and kids safe (especially here in Florida), and reduce the drowning and incident rate to non-existent levels.
As a way to help, Body-Mind Aquatics has initiated a FREE swim lesson program for parents of our swimmers who do not know how to swim. As we progress, we hope to initiate a grant based learn-to-swim program much like Broward County has instituted. In the meantime, we will see you out on the beach for our June 6th Community Beach Safety Day and at our FREE Swim Evaluation Safety Day parties!
About The Author
Carolyn Nash is the creator and owner of Body-Mind Aquatics, as well as an aquatic therapist, theta healer, swim coach, water fitness instructor and of course, a swimmer. She is a certified US Swim Coach and aquatic instructor with the National Water Fitness Association, Arthritis Foundation and the Red Cross, with 20 years of swim instruction experience and coaching. For more than 12 years, she trained intensely as a competitive swimmer and could swim before she could walk. Just after Carolyn finished college in her early 20s, she enlisted in AmeriCorps (like Peace Corps) in the US Virgin Islands. She noticed widespread fear of water and lack of swimming ability on the island, so she began the first public grant-based swimming lesson program, which is still happening to this day 15 years later. Now she passes on her fish-like skills and passion for the water in her swim school, Sarasota’s Body-Mind Aquatics’ Swim School.
She studied and trained in body-mind practices for many years with internationally known teachers and with Naropa University where she studied an MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology. In addition, she is a certified Theta Healer, and WATSU practitioner (water shiatsu, video on website). Through training with Annie Brooke, PhD, LPC, she learned how to integrate counseling psychology with kids and families into water sessions in her water therapy business in Colorado.
In 2006, Carolyn developed a unique aquatic program called Body-Mind Swimming which integrates Eastern philosophies into swimming. Body-Mind Aquatics was created shortly after when she integrated her training with these very ideas into swim lessons. Her program specializes in personalized lessons with only 3 kids per class and a method that is gentle, child-centered and child-paced while teaching survival safety swimming with fun and trust. In both Colorado and Florida, Carolyn has helped many swimmers overcome fears and trauma in the water with this unique. This holistic person-centered, attachment-minded approach also helps all swimmers enhance their body-mind connection, coordination and confidence, in addition to learning to swim.