I love my kids, and want them to have a lot of fun at our family swimming pool. But bless them, they sometimes just don’t pay attention to dear old Mom when it comes to the safety. They just want to go splash and play. So I’ve had to be creative at times to get my point across. I’d rather them think of me as a bit of a nag than experience an emergency room visit. Here are 7 tips that have worked well for me:
- Model the behavior. This one is not so much for me as my husband Ed. If he starts running around the side of the pool to get back to the diving board, what does that say to the kids about the rules? I’ve had to remind him several times – he gets just as excited as the kids when they’re playing their “highest splash from a cannonball” games. So we have to set the example for how we want the kids to act at the pool.
- Establish the rules. My husband Ed and I have established a clear set of rules for using our pool. It includes things like “No swimming without an adult present,” “No running at the pool,” “Stay away from the drains.” Ed had a sheet made up with our rules on it that he attached to the pool fence, just like you see at public pools.
- Repeat the rules. Once a week during swimming season, I have a family pool meeting, and remind the kids the rules for the pool. It sounds like that’s pretty often, but it’s amazing the short the attention span my kids have – my daughter can recite the rules from memory, but the boys will forget by the beginning of next week. The rules aren’t complicated, but the repetition helps.
- Tell their friends. If they have a new friend who comes over to swim, I first make sure that child can swim. Then I have one of my kids (usually my daughter Jenny) tell them the rules for our family pool. If Jenny is not there, the boys will try to repeat the rules, but I have to help them out. Not only does that introduce the new child to our pool with a safety focus, it is one more level of reinforcement for my kids.
- Stop that! I haven’t ever gone to get a whistle, but the kids know my “she’s not kidding” voice, and it will stop a child running along the side of the pool pretty quickly. Since one of our basic rules is for the kids not to swim without a parent in attendance, I am always out at the pool. But it’s not enough to just be there. If I’m the adult assigned to watch – I have to really watch. Every moment! That means I’m not chatting with my friends with my back to the pool. I’m not texting. I’m not running inside to fix sandwiches. If I need to do something, I turn over “watch” duty to my husband Ed. If he’s in the pool, he gets out, so he can focus on watching. We take that this part seriously – I’ve heard too many horror stories about a moment of inattention and a drowned child.
- Enforce consequences. This is where the whole rule concept has teeth. I can say the rules daily, but when I pulled one of my sons out of the pool and made him go inside for 30 minutes – that got everyone’s attention. Even though he was inside with the Wii, knowing his brother and all his friends were out splashing and playing – he was standing at the door squirming 28 minutes later, begging to go back out.
- Use resources to make the safety lesson fun. When they were young, I had all my kids watch the videos at Poolsafely.gov. It is a wonderful resource I ran across on the internet. They call the videos The Adventures of Splish and Splash, and it is games that help teach kids about pool safety. The child is presented with a situation – the ball has gone over the fence and into the pool. What do you do? That sort of thing. Since the videos were entertaining, the kids got the point without me having to wave a finger at them. Now that they’re older, I still hear them refer to “What would Splish do?” and I smile when they say it.
I don’t mess around when it comes to pool safety. Having safety as a prime focus has allowed our family to have so much fun with our family swimming pool. Watching my kids splash and play pool games is one of the joys of my world!
Becky Flanigan is a freelance writer for In The Swim. She has 3 kids with her wonderful husband – two boys and a girl – and two lovely golden retrievers. She enjoys spending hours at her family swimming pool, watching the kids and dogs splash and play. She is also a runner, and diligently training for her first half marathon.