Whenever we hear of a drowning tragedy, it immediately brings to mind any young people we know and their swimming ability. Many of us have pools, or friends or neighbours with one, and then there are the countless beaches and other waterways where we like to cool off and have fun. Of course, we try to watch the kids like hawks, but if something were to go awry, would your child know how to get themselves to safety?

It’s a sad and sorry statistic that drowning is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five. There are about 1.3 million backyard pools in Australia, endless kilometres of coastline and river systems and, not to mention, baths. Drowning can happen anywhere and in as little as 5cm of water.

Royal Life Saving produces a National Drowning Report each year. In 2015-2016 there were 280 people who drowned in this country, with 36 deaths occurring in children under the age of 17 – nearly one child a week! Kids must learn water safety and how to swim from an early age to reduce this statistic.

Learn to swim

Laurie Lawrence with two little water babies.

Recent research by Laurie Lawrence and the team at Learn to Swim revealed that only 51 per cent of parents take their children to swimming lessons. And of these, surprisingly, 14 per cent only take the oldest child. This is far too low for a water-loving nation like ours, especially when learning to swim can help to prevent kids, even quite young ones, from drowning.

During Learn to Swim week (in September each year), FREE swimming lessons are provided at participating swim schools around the nation. And while this is the perfect opportunity to ensure your child is taught how to swim, it’s important to enrol your child as soon as you can at any time of the year.

Laurie Lawrence, together with the Australian Government and various water safety experts, has put together a comprehensive water safety video for parents and caregivers of children under the age of five to help them understand their role in water safety at various ages. You can watch and/or download this 1 hour 21 minute video for FREE, here.

Lack of supervision is one of the main reasons children get into trouble around water. As Royal Life Saving states: ‘Supervised children don’t drown’.

Figures gathered from admissions at three New South Wales Children’s Hospitals found that in 56 per cent of cases where a child under four nearly drowned, there was a lapse in parental supervision. And Professor Danny Cass, Westmead Children’s Hospital’s trauma surgeon, says every one of these near-drownings was preventable if direct contact was maintained with the child in the water.

‘Supervision needs to be more direct,’ he says. ‘So we’ve always said supervision, but the public needs to understand that means direct undivided attention and actually playing with the child, hand contact, eye contact.

‘To actually pop in and get something from the kitchen or have divided attention to another child is where most of our drownings are now occurring.’

We all want our kids to be safe. We teach them stranger danger and how to cross roads safely, so it’s a no-brainer that we also teach them water safety from an early age. We never want a child to lose their life, especially knowing there is something we could have done to help prevent it.

Tell us, when did your children learn to swim? Did they go to lessons? And what was the reason they learnt at the age they did? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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