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There is a list of basic life skills all parents instinctively teach their children to keep them safe and healthy—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.
For too many parents, safety in and around water is not on the list.
Fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years old.
"It's never too early to get children involved in swimming—it's important for safety reasons, but also a great way to keep active and healthy," said Patrick Connelly, senior program director of program advancement at Valley Shore YMCA. "There are many options for parents, but the best place to start is by learning basic water safety skills that help get kids familiar with the water, continue with swim lessons and competitive swim programs, and possibly even lead to an aquatic career."
Patrick encourages parents to take an active role in fostering a relationship between their children and swimming—beginning with water safety. Here are some safety tips to practice when in and around the water:
• Only swim when and where there is a lifeguard on duty; never swim alone.
• Adults should constantly and actively watch their children.
• Inexperienced or non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
• Adults should be within an arm's reach of young children.
• Children and adults should not engage in breath-holding activities.
The fall and winter months are an ideal time to get children prepared for warmer weather. For children, winter can be a tough transition from consistent outdoor play and having a schedule full of activities to perhaps a less active lifestyle. Swimming is a great way to keep your child energized, healthy, happy, and active. In addition, swimming also motivates children to strive for self-improvement, teaches goal orientation, and cultivates a positive mental attitude and high self-esteem. It also teaches life lessons of sport and sportsmanship, teaching how to work well with teammates and coaches, and how to deal with winning and losing.
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.
This advice was provided by Valley Shore YMCA, located at 201 Spencer Plains Road, Westbrook. For more information, call 860-399-9622.
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