After hearing about a 7-year-old who got caught in a rip current yesterday while swimming at a beach in Naples, Florida, leaving him in critical condition -- all of us should be reminded of just how different the ocean is than a pool. (His poor parents. I can't even imagine how scary that was.)
Even if they're wading in shallow water right in front of us and we can easily see them, kids can get caught in strong currents, which can lead to them being swept out to sea and/or possibly drowning.
Yes, I know we can't keep our kids in a bubble and we can't expect them to sit on the shoreline and never enter the water -- but the ocean is no joke, and she's definitely an unpredictable force to be reckoned with. Even if your child is what you consider to be a strong swimmer, there are certain precautions you need to take to make sure the unthinkable doesn't happen.
Here are 6 tips for swimming safely with your kids at the beach this summer.
- Never let them swim alone -- Even if you aren't too keen on getting wet, it's safest to go in the water with your kids instead of letting them venture in without adult supervision. Staying close to them in the water is the only way to ensure you can act quickly in the event of things becoming unsafe.
- Pay attention to beach warning flags -- Most beaches will have flags out on any given day to show the strength of the waves and currents, so always make sure to double check the flag before allowing kids to swim. Simply eyeballing the state of the water isn't effective enough.
- Make friends with the lifeguard -- Always set up shop near the lifeguard stand so they are in close proximity in the event of an emergency. And talking to the lifeguard on duty when you arrive at the beach is essential, because he or she will be able to tell you the safest place to swim.
- Set strict limits for your kids -- Make sure they know not to go into the ocean any farther than knee deep -- the point at which they may not be able to escape a rip current if it pops up.
- Don't rely on flotation devices -- Yes, water wings, rafts, and boogie boards make for a fun day at the beach, but they aren't a substitute for a child knowing how to swim on his own. They provide a false sense of security in the water, which can potentially be disastrous.
- Teach your kids what to do in a rip current -- Sometimes no matter how many precautions we take, kids may find themselves in a dangerous situation. Make sure to remind them what to do in the event that they're swept out by a strong current. The Red Cross recommends staying calm and not fighting the current. Try and swim parallel to the shore until you come out of the current. If that's too much for your kids, instruct them to try and float or tread water until they are carried out of it, and also to wave their hands and call for help.
Do you get nervous when your kids swim in the ocean?
Image via therichbrooks/Flickr