Drowning is the leading cause of children’s deaths in Thailand, due in part to lax health and occupational safety regulations. For example, many condominiums and apartments have unfenced pools and ‘blind’ areas around the water. Open water is extremely attractive to adventurous toddlers, and it only takes minutes for a tragedy to occur. Below are 5 tips for parents to keep children safe around water.
1. Never lose sight of your child near any water. Drowning can occur in just 2 centimetres of water, so even bathtubs should always be monitored. Also, drowning is silent – there will be no audible indication that a child is in distress.
2. Prepare your child for swimming as soon as possible, which can begin as early as 3 months of age. Bath time is a great opportunity to slowly and consistently get your child ready for full-face immersion. Prepare a colourful plastic cup. Fill the cup with water and say the following: “Are you ready?…1, 2, 3”, and slowly pour the water down the back of the child’s neck and back. Continue this for at least a week. Then progress to pouring the water over the back of the child’s head (not down the face), again preceded by the phrase “Are you ready?…1, 2, 3”.
3. Keep at the bath time routine. You will now start to see the child preparing on ‘3’ and it’s time to slowly pour water over the top of the head and down the face. There may be tears in the beginning, but with persistence, your child will learn to close their eyes on command and not be afraid.
4. Do not rely on flotation devices in the pool. Not only can a child roll over face down in the water, it may be difficult to wean them off the devices later on, especially when they start swimming lessons.
5. Get in the pool with your child as much as possible. Make it a fun time, but test them out. This means giving them independence to explore and play in the water with you safely by their side. There may be some fright at the beginning, but be confident as a parent, and let them ‘fall’ but pick them up. This builds the child’s confidence and also breaks down blocks of fear.
By Matt Ferrier, who’s a licensed swim coach and instructor of CPR and first aid. He was a competitive swimmer in Australia, as well as a decorated lifesaver with documented rescues in Queensland. Matt is currently Head Coach at Bangkok Swimming (www.bangkokswimming.com), which also organizes a non-profit surf life saving day for children every 6 weeks.