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Water Safety When Your Child Shows No Fear

Water Safety When Your Child Shows No Fear

Kids standing in the oceanThere is no parenting job I take more seriously than water safety. You may describe me as hyper-vigilant when it comes to water safety tips. I have good reason to be – my 3-year-old son.

From the time he was born, Owen has loved water. He will play in the sink or spray the hose for hours if given the chance (which we often do!). He loves the ocean and the pool. In fact, I worry that he’ll swallow a higher-than-acceptable amount of water just because of the smile on his face the entire time he is swimming. This is all great, in my opinion, except that he has no fear. None – whatsoever.

In fact, his preschool teachers can affirm that he approaches much of his play in this manner. Fall off the climber – right back up. Wipe out on the pavement – nothing. Family and friends assure me that having a ‘brush it off attitude’ is much better than the opposite. I generally agree…except when it comes to water. I wish he had just a tiny bit of fear or, rather, understanding of the danger. Because no matter how many times we share the rules, it doesn’t register with him.

Case in point: We went to my brother’s house for a 4th of July BBQ and swim this past week. We set the rules: No going in the gated pool area without your swim vest, jumping only allowed with a parent on the receiving end, stay in the shallow end, and on and on. We were very clear. He repeated the rules and we thought he understood. Yet, as my husband and I were getting him ready for a swim, he quickly bolted between us through the pool gate and “cannonballed” into the deep end – all this without his vest.

My heart stopped. Why was it taking my husband so long to jump in? Did Owen just pop back up and look at us like “that was the funnest thing I ever did”?

We dragged him out. Asked him if he remembered the rules. “Remember, you can only go in the pool with your swim vest on. And no jumping off the deep end!” He looked down confused like he didn’t even realize he wasn’t wearing his swim vest.

This situation could have been a lot worse. He could have drowned or swallowed enough water to create complications that could lead to secondary drowning. But it could have been more positive – like, he could have scared himself enough to remember our water safety rules. But I fear that hasn’t happened. To him, it was just fun.

So, I’m baffled how to approach water safety going forward. Even though specific incidences come with strict consequences (no swimming for a set amount of time after), I don’t want to spoil his fun by never allowing him to swim. I need him to be safe, though. I’m committed to getting him into formal swim lessons and, for now, will continue to be hyper-vigilant whenever he’s around water. Anyone else have water safety tips when your child shows no fear?

Kids playing in the ocean


One comment

  1. Oana Garcia July 15, 2015 at 8:05 am

    You should take your 3-year-old to infant self rescue water classes. They will teach him how to get on his back and float no matter how he gets or falls into the water. And it will give you less stress about the situation.
    From what you describe, his attitude is to be celebrated and until his little brain evolves a bit more to be able to understand danger, you should allow him a lot of exploration time and sports time. With my daughter (2 and a half) I allow her to explore, climb, get in the water and watch her every second, but never stop her. I’m there to “save the day” if needed, but her job is to explore and be fearless.

    In no time, life will catch up with him and he’ll have plenty of understanding, just allow him the time to develop.

    Best of luck – who knows, maybe you have a next Olympic swimmer on your hands! 🙂


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