Our local community pool has had a firm rule: No children may pass across the floatation barrier separating the deep end of the pool from the shallow end without showing the lifeguard that they can swim the full length of the pool. Why? Because knowing how to swim saves lives. In this situation, it also reduces liability for the pool, makes the lifeguards’ jobs easier, and protects non-swimmers from getting in “over their head” so to speak. Of course, without swim instruction in the form of regular lessons, a child would not be able to accomplish an entire lap in the pool. Needless to say, our community pool offers lessons all summer long. For more resources on the benefits of swim instruction, follow these links:
- Health Benefits of Swimming
- Swimming Pool Safety: Layers of Protection
- Is My Child Ready for Swim Lessons?
How to Get From Here to There
I recall facing this “lifeguard test” when I was a kid. I had recently completed two, two-week swim lesson sessions that took up the first month of my summer vacation (albeit for 30 minutes per day) and I was feeling confident.
Sure enough, I passed on the first try and when I dove into the deep end for the first time, joining my friends who had been there for weeks, I was ecstatic. The sense of freedom, accomplishment and anticipation of an entirely new world of fun washed over me.
Start Early and Stay Involved in Lessons
Infants as young as six months old can learn basic survival techniques, such as rolling onto their backs and floating if they fall into a pool. For toddlers, group classes that get them acquainted with the water and comfortable in and around it are a huge help for paving the way to swim instruction later. By four years old, sometimes sooner, most children are ready for basic swimming stroke instruction. But what about older kids? How long is long enough? Many parents, after three or four years of summer lessons, mistakenly believe that it’s time to stop; their child is able to swim across the pool and therefore, they have had all the instruction that is necessary. But this is far from the truth.
Swim instruction for older children, even teenagers, is known to provide a distinct advantage in lifesaving skills, in addition to being a healthy and life-sustaining activity that can be practiced for a lifetime. Additionally, as children grow up and spend more time away from parents, particularly once they are in the high school years, swimming excursions aren’t limited to a local backyard or community pool. Teenagers will often visit local rivers, lakes or the ocean, where the environment can present far more challenging situations. Uneven lake or river bottoms, swift currents and ocean riptides make it essential that not only should teenagers know how to swim, but be adept enough to conquer potentially dangerous situations and natural hazards that present themselves in these locales.
If your boys are like mine and aren’t used to the water, life jackets for kids can help boost their confidence the first few times in the water, just to get them ready for swim lessons! I’ve been amazed at how much more comfortable my once-scared kids get after they’ve had a chance to play in a safe environment where they weren’t scared! – Erica
What if Kids Resist Lessons?
As a parent, you are ultimately responsible for your child’s safety. Even reluctant children who either dislike being in the water or have a more difficult time mastering skills should be encouraged to spend time in the water and required to learn to swim. The message to your child should be calm, caring and firm: You may not enjoy it every step of the way, but this is a necessary skill that everyone must learn to do. But is there ever a circumstance that warrants pulling a child from swim instruction? The answer is yes, when either of these scenarios occur: you feel that your child’s health or safety is in question, or the swim instructor or program does not allow you to observe the lesson. If this happens, it might be best to find another program that is a better fit for your child.
Kaitlin Gardner started An Apple Per Day to explore her passion for a green living lifestyle, and healthy family living. She and her husband have just moved to rural Pennsylvania, where they enjoy exploring the countryside and discovering interesting and out of the way places. She is also learning how to paint with watercolors.
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