Summer is fast approaching, which means you'll probably be hitting the pool with your kids. While swimming with little ones can be nerve-racking, enrolling your child in swim lessons can help alleviate some of those water-related fears. And this mom's post about the importance of swim lessons after her son's tragic drowning will move you to enroll your own son or daughter if you haven't already.
In a recent post on her Facebook page, Levi's Legacy, Nicole Hughes recalled mulling over enrolling her then 3-year-old son Levi in swim lessons with her husband. Hughes shared in the post that as a couple, they decided to wait until their son turned 4 to sign him up for lessons. Six weeks later, Hughes wrote that she "pulled his lifeless body out of a pool."
"Please enroll your toddler in the RIGHT swim lessons, ones that focus on water competency and survival," Hughes urged parents on Facebook. "'SURVIVAL' is the goal and the key word. If your child can 'swim' but only WITH a flotation device, that is not swimming. If your precious 3 year old somehow found his way to the deep end, could he survive?"
She continued, "ALL SWIM LESSONS ARE NOT CREATED EQUALLY. Swimming is not in the same category as soccer and dance. Drowning is the #1 cause of death for ages 1-4; many in that age group cannot swim. These two factors have to be connected."
Hughes went on to say in her Facebook post that both her daughters were able to swim by age 3. Her area, however, didn't have "true survival swim for toddlers" and she "had never heard of these type of lessons before Levi died." She added that she found "group options" for swim lessons to be a "waste of time," opting instead for something private.
Hughes urged all parents of toddlers, "If you lack adequate options in your area, find the best qualified private instructor you can find." After her son's death, Hughes' goal is to see more swim lessons pop up in areas around the country.
"I am fully aware of how many cities lack quality swim lessons, and I hope — I know — we can get this fixed," she wrote on Facebook. "Just this month, our area gained two survival swim instructors. And, we are working on an exciting project behind the scenes to make these lessons more accessible and affordable within the community." Hughes added that her "long-term goal" is "to help bring the right kind of swim lessons to as many communities as possible."
Hughes has teamed up with Goldfish Swim School to help educate parents around the country about the importance of water safety for young kids through a program called Goldfish RX, according to a press release.
The Goldfish RX program aims to establish relationships with pediatricians by providing them with educational materials — such as coloring sheets with water safety tips, educational pamphlets, and a "prescription tear pad to prescribe every child an introductory, complimentary swim lesson" — so they can speak with patients' parents about drowning prevention, water safety, and the importance of swim lessons, the press release states.
Hopefully this program will be as successful as Hughes' other drowning-prevention advocacy. Following Levi's June 2018 drowning, Hughes brought her message to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the organization has since updated its recommendations to prevent drowning in children.
On March 15 — inspired by Hughes and Bode Miller, both of whom have lost children to drowning incidents — the AAP updated its recommendations, acknowledging that children ages 1 to 4 are most commonly injured and killed in drowning incidents, but teens are also at high risk. According to the AAP, here are its recommended ways to prevent child drowning:
- Install a climb-proof fence, 4-feet tall or higher: As most drownings in kids 4 years old and younger occur in home swimming pools, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the AAP says fences can help prevent such accidents, noting that they're the most effective, proven way to prevent child drownings.
- Install an alarm: The AAP notes that drowning children are rarely heard, so installing an alarm around pools, on door gates, and pool covers can alert parents that something has entered the water. Alarms should be "in good shape with fresh batteries."
- Assign someone to keep an eye on the water: The AAP recommends assigning and adults taking turns as a "water watcher" to prevent child drownings. That person should not be under the influence or be distracted by cell phones or other devices during their turn, the AAP says.
- Use life jackets: The AAP says life jackets are a proven way to prevent drowning, noting that children should be in U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets when near water.
- Enroll your kids in swim lessons: The AAP recommends swim lessons for all children, noting that they can begin as young as age 1.
- Learn CPR: Adults and teens should learn CPR, according to the AAP, as this can help if a drowning event occurs.
- Check the water first: The AAP states that if a child is missing, water should be checked first.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning every day, and "two are children aged 14 or younger." In 2017 alone, according to the AAP, almost 1,000 kids died from drowning and more than 8,500 were taken to hospitals for drowning-related events; toddlers and teens were at the highest risk.
You may think your child is too young, or you don't have enough time to cart them to and from swim lessons every week. In the long run, however, proper swim lessons early on can provide children with life-saving skills. Talk with your pediatrician or explore all the swim programs available in your area to find a program well-suited for you and your child.