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Drowning – Not What It Looks Like. Know The Signs.

Summer time = time to enjoy the pool and relax with the family. It’s important to introduce your child to the water at a young age and make sure they know the proper safety rules/precautions. The longer you wait, the more fears can arise in your child.

To help ease the process, we’ll share some simple tips.

If you have an anxious child you’ll need to ease them into it. Sit on the edge and dangle your feet in, encouraging them to do the same. Start lightly kicking and splashing a bit. Use your feet and cup handfuls of water and pour it on your legs. Talk with your child so they feel comfortable. Next, try to sit on a step together. Get some fun toys, it will help distract them. Persevere, they will eventually become comfortable in the water.

If your child is a fearless one and jumping right in, you must explain to them it can be dangerous. Take the time to go over pool safety, for example: they can never jump in the pool without you. Teach them how to hold on to the ledge and move along it. Also – how to get to the ledge if they feel like they’re getting too deep.

Floaties can be extremely dangerous if your child isn’t big enough. They can cause your child’s arms to stay above water while their head dunks under. Floating swimsuits are a much better option.


If you think of drowning as a violent, kicking, screaming act… think again. Drowning is unexpectedly a quiet and non-violent event. Yes, we tend to see drowning victims on TV splashing and yelling for help, but that’s typically not the case.

There is something called “The Instinctive Drowning Response” where the victim is unable to call for help. If their respiratory system is in jeopardy and the victim is having trouble breathing, they obviously can’t call for help. Their mouths are often under the water and when it is above, the gasp for quick breaths will make them sink under more.

Someone drowning can’t wave their arms. They are usually out to the sides of their body pressing downwards on the water. Their body will be upright with no signs of kicking and usually submerge after a minute at the longest.

Look for: Head low in the water but titled back, gasping for breath/hyperventilating, glassy or closed eyes, no leg movement, trying to roll onto their back. The victim will often look like they are trying to climb upwards but cannot.

Very Important: Never assume someone is watching your child! If you need to step away for a minute, take your child with you or make sure you ask your friend or partner to watch them. Accidents happen all the time because a parent just assumes the other parent is watching their child. So even if it’s your partner always ask, “Have you got Harry?”!

Scary statistic for parents… but the CDC says drowning is the 2nd cause of accidental death in children. Out of the 750 children who drown, 375 will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. That’s just the length of a regular pool! Keep watch, be cautioned…because even if it doesn’t look like they’re drowning, they could be drowning right next to you.

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Speaking of Marriage

Winifred M. Reilly, M.A., MFT

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