School’s out and many of us, including our kids, are hitting the beach or pool or tubing in the Hill Country. But not everyone who does so knows how to swim. Accidental drownings happen to about 3,500 people per year in the United States, and the majority of those involved children younger than 14. And yet, drowning is preventable. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found kids who take swim lessons are 88 percent less likely to drown. So, before your children spend any amount of time in the water, please enroll them in swim lessons.
African-Americans Have High Risk
According to research by the USA Swimming Foundation, conducted by the University of Memphis and University of Nevada-Las Vegas, 64 percent of African-American children don’t know how to swim. There are several reasons why but the main one is a fear of water that’s been passed down from generation to generation. And as the USA Swimming Foundation study indicates, if a parent doesn’t know how to swim, there’s a high likelihood their children won’t have good swimming skills.
What They’ll Learn
While every class and teacher is different, swim lessons will offer your child the basic fundamentals of water safety – from learning not to go into the water unless an adult is present to learning how to stay calm and swim to safety in the case of trouble. Oftentimes, parents can start going to swim lessons with their children as young as 6 months old to get them acclimated to the water and start helping them learn to float instinctively. The best time to begin independent swim lessons typically is about 4 years, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Things to Remember
While 6 months or even 4 years may seem young for swim lessons, the younger your child is when they start lessons, the sooner they will be used to the water. One of the largest factors in drownings is panic and fear – a child will wade into water over their head and instead of remaining calm, they panic. Swim lessons help them get used to the water so that if they’re ever in an emergency situation, they’ll be better equipped to handle it. Another thing to remember is most drownings, especially in the toddler range, happen because a child gets out of the house and into the pool without their parents knowing. In cases like these, it will be imperative your child know how to react if they fall into a pool.
Free Lessons Available
If you can’t afford private swim lessons, there are group classes available at local YMCAs or recreational centers that may be more affordable. And there are free and reduced-cost lessons available through Houston Parks and Recreation. Visit their website for more information and to sign-up online.
Dr. Workeneh is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Pearland Clinic. She’s been a favorite of kids and their parents for over 16 years. Her clinical interests include childhood allergies and asthma.