Keep Your Kids Safe In And Around Water This Summer

Children smiling in the water

There's a list of basic life skills all parents instinctively know they must teach their children to keep them safe and healthy. It includes habits like looking both ways before crossing the street, washing your hands with soap and water and eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables every day.

For too many parents, safety in and around water is not on the list; and that's something we need to change.

Drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1-14. In North Carolina, 25 children drowned in 2016, the most recent numbers available from the NC Child Fatality Task Force.

The problem is particularly acute among minority communities. For example, African American children ages 5 to 14 are three times more likely to down than their white counterparts. The disparity is partly due to the lack of swimming experience among these children.

According to a 2017 national research study conducted by the USA Swimming Foundation with the University of Memphis and University of Nevada-Las Vegas, 64 percent of African American children cannot swim, compared to 45 percent of Hispanic children and 40 percent of Caucasian children. Additionally, 79 percent of children in families with household income less than $50,000 have no/low swimming ability.

The Y is committed to reducing water-related injuries, particularly in communities where children are most at risk. During National Water Safety Month this May, the Y offers Safety Around Water, a program to engage parents about the importance of water safety skills and provide more children access to water safety lessons. 

As part of the program, the YMCA of Western North Carolina has partnered with key community agencies to provide children from low-income and underserved communities to participate in the Safety Around Water program at no cost. The lessons teach young people valuable skills like what to do if they find themselves in the water unexpectedly, a situation every child should be equipped to handle. In 2017, more 500 local children participated in this program.

These classes are just one of the many swim programs that more than a million people, from toddlers to adults, take advantage of at more than 2,000 YMCA pools across the country. The Y teaches more than 2,300 children water safety and swimming each year in western North Carolina. Through Safety Around Water, the Y hopes to further bridge cultural and access gaps that can prevent some children from learning important water safety skills.

If children know how to stay safe in and around water, swimming can be a lifelong source of fun and exercise. Instead of keeping your children away from water, help them learn fundamental water safety skills. These classes can provide a new, exciting way to keep active and meet new friends.

To learn more about the Y's Safety Around Water program, click here.