When it comes to water safety in the United States, the one organization that has probably done the most is The American Red Cross. For almost 100 years (the centennial anniversary is coming up in 2014), the American Red Cross has been at the forefront of teaching kids how to be safe around the water. For almost 40 years, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Baltimore has been a proud partner of our local Central Maryland Chapter. All of our swimming lesson instructors are trained and certified by the American Red Cross. In fact, in May and early June of each year, many camps, beaches, and other summer programs send their lifeguards and instructors to a National Aquatic School held at Camp Milldale to get trained!
Parents need to actively participate in their child’s swimming and water safety development, regardless of their own level of skill in the water. Aquatics Director Bill Kirkner says that parental involvement and interest in a child’s progress is a key factor to a positive and successful experience. This is a major reason why the parent’s role is emphasized in the organization’s Learn-to-Swim and Parent and Child Aquatics.
“Parents can really play a pivotal role in their child’s aquatic advancement,” said Mr. Kirkner. “The American Red Cross believes the number one thing parents can do to keep families safe in and around the water is to make sure everyone learns to swim and learns to swim well.”
The American Red Cross Learn-to-Swim program offered at Camp Milldale consists of six levels of instruction that help in the developing swimming and water safety skills.
Along with taking an active role in a child’s aquatic development, the American Red Cross suggests parents remember the following:
- Make safety number one. Practice “reach supervision” at all times.
“Parents should be within arm’s length of their child in case of a water related emergency,” cautions Mike Mendelzon, Camp Milldale’s Head Lifeguard. “Don’t depend on flotation devices and inflatable toys, which are for fun. These are not designed to be a safety device.”
Mendelzon, a six-year veteran of the Camp Milldale Aquatic Staff ,says that you should repeat and reinforce pool rules with your children whenever you visit a pool. “Because they’re still maturing, children must be constantly reminded to only enter when you says it’s okay to do so, to walk slowly in the pool area and to only enter the water if they are sure that proper adult supervision is present.”
- Have reasonable expectations.
Regardless of the number of times kids are exposed to the water, whether in a structured experience or otherwise, they cannot be expected to comprehend potentially dangerous situations or to rely on their swimming skills to save their own lives.
“Becoming a swimmer takes time and even then no one is drown-proof,” says Swim Team Coach Eugene Aynbinder. “Putting unreasonable timelines on your child will only discourage them and frustrate you.”
Allow progress to come within its own timeframe; don’t be wedded to age or time charts, or “swim level” designations. [Coach Eugene should know: He started out as a camper not knowing how to swim, and eventually got trained as a Lifeguard, then as a Water Safety Instructor and now as a Swim Team Coach. He has been on the Camp Milldale staff for six years.]
- Practice makes perfect.
“The frequency of practicing swimming skills is the key to adjustment and learning so you should be sure your child and you attend every lesson,” recommends Sue Szembroth, who heads up the JCC’s Learn-to-Swim Program at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC. “Practice the skills and activities at home or during recreational swimming hours at the pool. A bathtub, shower or wading pool—with your supervision—are perfect places for play.”
- Have fun.
If you enjoy yourself, your child will too.
“If you are approaching this time as only an opportunity for your child to learn to swim, you’ll miss out on one of the most valuable aspects of the experience,” states Erica Diener, one of Camp Milldale’s returning staff of experienced Water Safety Instructors. “Put on your fun hat and be sure to recognize your child’s efforts, no matter how small. The more you enj0oy their progress, the more excited they’ll be about getting better.”
Do you have a JCC membership? If not, you should get one>>