You know those moments in life when you thank your lucky stars that you made a decision that you did, because it ended up making all the difference?
That’s exactly how I felt the day I heard my two-year-old daughter Amelia had been pulled out of a pool after she nearly drowned.
When I was a child, I don’t recall doing any sort of formal swimming lessons until primary school. I decided when Amelia was one years old that I would start her in weekly swimming lessons. As a family, we believe it is an important skill to learn early. One of our family members has a pool at home, and as we visit regularly, it seemed essential to get onto swimming lessons early.
Not A Fan Of The Water
At first, Amelia was very hesitant, despite having a wonderful teacher and me being in the water with her. She was not a fan of the water and would cry for the majority of the lesson. Within about six lessons, however, she quickly learned to like the water and within a couple of months, she progressed to a class without parent assistance.
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I remember being surprised at how quickly her skills developed. After a few weeks, she could control her breathing and after a few more weeks, she could tread water.
It was only five months after starting lessons that Amelia had to put her newly learned skills to use in a real life emergency situation. It was a warm day and both Amelia and her then five-year-old brother, Max, were spending the day by the pool with family while my husband and I were at a funeral.
It Happened So Quickly!
Amelia fell in the water. We are not entirely sure how she fell in. We believe she was playing around with her brother and may have been accidentally bumped into the pool when a family member was still outside but had ducked behind the pool pump area for just a moment. The point is, it all happened so quickly!
My son ran to alert the family – thankfully he was old enough to understand it was serious and he could alert someone for help. Amelia, who was only two years and three months old at the time, put her water skills into action and was able to control her breathing and tread water until she was pulled to safety.
The Ending Could Have Been Very Different
It’s frightening to think back now and consider what could have been and how differently that day could have turned out. You can’t control everything that happens in life and sometimes, things happen in a split second when you never expect it. This is so often the case around water. The best thing you can do is give your kids the skills they need, so if accidents do happen, they know what to do.
It took Amelia two lessons per week for a month for her to regain her confidence. She still attends swimming lessons with her brother all year round, even during winter (and we will start sending her one year old sister, Layla, in a few months time). Our accident happened during summer, but it is essential to continue throughout the whole year to maintain confidence in the pool, as well as maintain core life-saving skills and learn new skills.
Never Look Away!
My advice to other parents is to supervise and pay attention at all times, when your children are in or around water. Remember, it takes just seconds for an accident to happen. Educate your children about how to raise an alarm for help if an accident has happened – as this may save another child’s life. And of course, keep up swimming lessons! Amelia’s swimming lessons undoubtedly saved her life. Yes swimming lessons can be pricey, especially if you have multiple children, but it is such a necessity and one day, you may be thankful you gave your kids these lifesaving skills!
Expert advice: What parents can do
Mark Collins CEO of JUMP! Swim Schools, which has over 50 boutique children’s swimming schools across Australia and New Zealand, says this year could be one of the most dangerous Australia has seen, with reduced swimming skills among children after lockdowns in 2020 posing a big threat.
“Pools were forced to shut during the peak swimming lesson period last year and Swim Australia’s Swim Safer report has shown that 41% of parents don’t plan to enroll/re-enroll in the next 12 months.
“Taking time off from learning to swim often results in loss of confidence and skill – and usually we see the effects if children have more than three weeks or so off. Considering many children have had more than six months off already, the loss in confidence and basic, life-savings skills is very likely and immensely concerning.”
Mark says there are a few key things parents can do to ensure their child’s safety around water:
- Talk to your children actively about water and water safety and the fact they may need a bit of practice before they’re back to swimming at the same level they were earlier in the year.
- Ideally, be in the water with your kids.
- Set ground rules with your kids before you arrive at the location eg. stay in the shallow, stay between the flags, always hold my hand, no running.
- Only swim in areas that are manned by a lifeguard.
- Don’t assume your child is at the same swimming skill level they were at the start of 2020. It may be that children who were confidently able to stay afloat in the water may now need assistance.
- Make grandparents and other carers aware that your child’s swimming skills may be a little rusty and encourage them to alter their plans accordingly if need be (eg. instead of going to the pool with grandma perhaps it’s safter to play in the sprinkler).
- Remember that water accidents don’t always happen when your children are actively swimming and dressed in their bathers. They may be riding their bike along a lake, on a walk near a jetty or boat ramp or playing in a backyard that has a dam.
- Get kids back to lessons as soon as you can and consult your swim teacher to ensure they’re in the right class for their current skill level (which may be different from their previous level).
Is your child water-safe? Have you had any scary water incidents? Tell us in the comments below.