by Lindsay Mondick
YMCA of the USA
If asked, most parents can immediately rattle off a list of basic life skills they instinctively know their children must learn to be safe and healthy. These lists usually include habits like looking both ways before crossing the street, washing hands with soap and water (timed by singing the “Happy Birthday” song) and eating the correct daily serving of fruits and vegetables.
But for too many parents, safety around water is not on the list; and that’s something we need to address.
Fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years old. And, the problem is particularly acute among minority communities. African-American children ages 5 to 14 are three times more likely to drown than white children of the same age.
According to a recent national study conducted at Ys by the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis at YMCAs, 64 percent of African-American and 45 percent of Hispanic children cannot swim, compared to just 40 percent of Caucasian children. Equally concerning, 87 percent of those swimmers with no or low ability plan to go to a swimming facility at least once during the summer months and 34 percent plan to swim 10 or more times.
The Y is committed to making swimming part of the list of basic life skills and reducing water-related injuries, particularly in communities where children are most at risk, through the Safety Around Water program. This program focuses on teaching parents about the importance of water safety skills and provides more children with access to water safety lessons. These lessons teach youth valuable skills for when they find themselves in the water unexpectedly, a scary situation every child should be equipped to handle.