please make sure there isn't an empty chair at your dinner table because of a child drowning
There has been so many articles written lately about how terrifyingly silent drowning is. There have been so many articles written about a family’s fall out after a drowning or near drowning revival stories. I CRY each time I read these articles, not just in my heart but actual tears running down my cheeks because those families knew everything we know and never thought there would be an empty chair at their dinner table because of their own child drowning.
I think we all walk around with a positivity bias (also called the pollyanna principal). This is a tendency to remember or think about pleasant thoughts or memories rather than unpleasant ones. I think to be a parent and function we have to have a good dose of pollyanna to just get out the door or leave our children out of our sight at school or day care. If we thought constantly about the things that COULD happen to our children (car accidents, SIDS, head injuries) we wouldn’t leave the house or leave the children out of our sight. I don’t want to suggest we dial down our optimism but I do want to get serious about our own children’s drowning risk because it is something we have so much control over.
The drowning of our own child is something NOONE wants to think about but it’s something I want parents to start thinking about EVERY time they put a swim suit on their child, EVERY time they’re at a friend’s house with a pool, EVERY time they’re around a puddle of water.
Children under 5 (or any age non swimmer) ALWAYS need to be within arm’s reach of an adult. Floaties are NOT an alternative to arm's reach supervision, they are NOT an excuse for you not to get in the water with your child. If you think your child needs floaties you need to be in the water right next to them. There is no excuse for a child under 5 being in the water alone. If your under five gets in the water without you I want you to answer some honest questions...
· Am I not getting in because I don’t like to wear a swim suit?
· Am I not getting in because I don’t want to get wet?
· Am I not getting in because I’m tired?
· Am I not getting in because they like to be independent?
None of those reasons are good enough to have an empty chair at the dinner table.
In water where they can touch you STILL need to be within arm’s reach - recovering to standing position is something we expect every swimmer can do but it takes a series of physical movements that most children learn through trial and error. In this case the ‘error’ has fatal consequences.
No one who loses a child to drowning got up that morning thinking the worst. I do want us all to think the worst just for a moment when we are making decisions about how our children are supervised around water. I want us to imagine the empty bed, the empty chair, the empty car seat in your rear vision mirror for just one horrible moment. Please, ditch the pollanna prinicipal when it comes to water safety and think about the worst thing that could happen in the pool or at the beach and let it change your actions. It doesn’t have to spoil a fun day but thinking about an empty seat at the dinner table for one moment may help you make safer supervision choices.
This video is from the WA’s amazing Watch Around Water organisation. This video is a group of parents who have three different outcomes to a drowning: One parent resuscitated her daughter after she pulled her from the bottom of a pool unbreathing after the time it took for her to look away to make a bottle for her youngest, another has a son who sustained severe brain damage after he was resuscitated after his drowning, the third is a father who in his own very powerful words talks about ‘the empty seat at his dinner table’ after his four year old fatally drowned. Please watch it. It is a powerfully persuasive water supervision story.