If your child was drowning, would you know what to do?

Royal Life Saving
Thanks to our brand partner, Royal Life Saving

There is a quote by Elizabeth Stone that perfectly sums up how I feel about being a mother, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

And with that mindset, I read a devastating story not too long ago about a mother who fell asleep with her son next to her and woke up to find that he had drowned in her friend’s pool. It shook me to my core and into action.

As parents many of us hold onto the belief that “it won’t happen to me”. Yet in Australia drowning continues to be one of the most common causes of preventable death in children under five. This statistic shows that we aren’t doing enough to stop our kids drowning and we simply aren’t prepared if the unimaginable happens.

Here are five things we all need to do to prevent our precious kids from water-related death or injury.

1. Supervise, supervise, supervise.

Drowning happens quickly and silently, often within the time it takes to boil an egg. As parents we can easily get distracted by a million tasks on our to-do list but if our children are near water it is essential that we watch them ALL the time – an occasional glance while chatting or cleaning up the lunch mess isn’t enough.

The 2015 Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report found that 81% of drowning deaths in children aged 0 to 4 occurred due to falls into water when adult supervision lapsed or was totally absent. Supervised children don’t drown. Stay vigilant.

Writer Jacqui's husband and two sons. Image: supplied.

2. Build a barrier.

Make sure that you restrict your child’s access to the pool through a properly installed fence that self-closes and self-latches and don’t get into the habit of propping it open when you have to do a few trips to and from the pool.

Almost 50% of pool drownings happen due to this type of carelessness or because pool owners failed to fix a faulty gate or fence. When we think about water safety we often only worry about inground pools but you need to consider anything that contains water around the house, no matter how shallow it seems. Inflatable pools with a depth of more than 300mm need to be fenced, covers should be put on your spa and tank, and water features and ponds need to be covered with mesh.


3. Enrol in swimming and water safety lessons.

My sons started swimming lessons at 6 months old and it’s the best money we have ever spent. My three year old is now able to tread water and is learning to swim without floaties while my 19-month-old can now safely enter and exit the pool and is becoming more confident in the water with each weekly lesson.

Royal Life Saving’s Swim and Survive Wonder Program focuses on building kid’s confidence in the water by introducing them to basic skills like moving through water and blowing bubbles. Once they have mastered the basics, the Courage program builds their skills until they graduate to the Active learn to swim classes around the age of five. Swimming lessons at a reputable school are a great investment in keeping your kids safe around water. Get on it.

4. Learn CPR.

Since my kids were born I’ve been meaning to learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) which involves stimulating the heart and breathing air into the lungs to preserve or restore life. Good intentions aren’t going to get me very far in an emergency situation so I’ve just booked myself into a CPR course and you should too.

Knowing how to respond quickly and confidently if your child is drowning could be the difference between life and death. It’s also important to encourage your family and friends to learn CPR. Believe it or not, but a grandparent or a neighbour was responsible for supervising a child who drowned in over 20% of deaths. Scary stuff.

5. Talk to your kids.

It’s important to discuss water safety with your kids and have firm rules in place about how to behave around water. Keep the conversation simple and clear, use stories to capture their attention and make sure you get them to repeat the messages back to you to show they understand. It might sound pedantic but repetition is key.

When we think of Summers spent by the pool we can often ignore the real danger that water presents to young children. In NSW alone, pools have claimed 83 innocent young lives in the last 13 years. That is 83 children who will never cuddle their parents again, never wave and smile as they head off to their first day of school, never navigate through their teen years and become adults. 83 children gone due to drowning, a tragedy that is completely preventable.

The Royal Life Saving's Be Pool Safe campaign is striving to reduce death and injury in our backyards. Their Resource Guide for Pool Owners provides you and your family with all the information you need to safely enjoy your pool. They also have a home pool safety checklist you can use to ensure your pool is safe. Simple actions save lives. Be responsible and act.

How do you keep your kids' safe around water?